It’s a Mads Mads Mads Mads World

Mads Tolling & The Mads Men play Yoshi's on Jan. 29.


Courtesy of Mads Tolling

Danish-born violinist Mads Tolling grew up enamored with all things American, a passion that only deepened when he discovered jazz via some cassette tapes of Miles Davis. After settling in the Bay Area, he earned international renown and two Grammy Awards with the pioneering jazz string ensemble Turtle Island Quartet, but he has been pursuing his own projects in recent years and established himself as an ambitious bandleader, accomplished composer, and daring improviser committed to expanding the violin’s sonic parameters.

His new album featuring Mads Tolling & The Mads Men is titled Playing the 60s, and it’s an extended thematic riff on the hit AMC show. Like Don Draper showed again and again, a gimmick can work if it hits the right emotional note, and Tolling consistently finds the sweet spot in reimagining material gleaned from that turbulent decade. Focusing on television and Hollywood themes from Mission: Impossible and Romeo and Juliet to The Pink Panther and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the Albany violinist has a knack for rebranding instantly familiar tunes by setting them to new grooves.

The project’s success stems from his stellar team of Mads Men, which includes drummer Eric Garland, Colin Hogan on piano and accordion, and special guest vocalist Kenny Washington (who delivers a gorgeous version of “What A Wonderful World” on the album). Like Wynton Marsalis, who hired Washington when he restaged his Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields, and the Grammy-winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra, Tolling decided to add a potent dose of soul by recruiting the superlative Oakland jazz singer. 

Mads Tolling & The Mads Men, Jan. 29, 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, $24 and $49, 510-238-9200, 


This report appears in the January edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

Published online on Jan. 19, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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