Playing The 60s

Mads Tolling & The Mad Men

Madsman Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Mads Tolling is a Danish classically trained violinist currently living in San Francisco. After touring with jazz bassist Stanley Clarke and an eight year stint plus two Grammy Awards with the jazz string ensemble the Turtle Island Quartet, he is now on his own.

His press release states that his new release, Playing The 60s, “draws material from the era evoked by the award-wining series AMC series my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mad Men.” I’m not sure how much the series influenced the song selection, but Tolling manages to take an eclectic group of ‘60s material and give them jazz interpretations.

The violin is a rarely used jazz instrument, but in the right hands it and setting, it can provide an interesting sound. Tolling surrounds himself with keyboardist/accordion player Colin Hogan, bassist Sam Bevan, drummer Eric Garland, and singers Kalil Wilson, Spencer Day, and Kenny Washington. Also on hand as a guest is his former boss Stanley Clarke. Together, they provide a nice foundation for Tolling to improvise on the various melodies.

Television themes such as “Peter Gunn,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “Mission Impossible,” “The Pink Panther,” and “Meet The Flintstones” are modernized nostalgic pieces.

The old Herb Alpert hit, “A Taste Of Honey,” undergoes a number of tempo changes and concludes with a tasty drum solo. “Beautiful Savior” is an old German hymn that is a vehicle for a violin/bass duet between Tolling and Clarke. Perhaps the most interesting track is his Latin version of the rock classic “All Along The Watchtower.”

The vocal tracks travel in a number of directions. Spencer Day gives an understated vocal on “The Look Of Love.” Kalil Wilson fuses a soul vocal with a jazz foundation on “My Girl.” Kenny Washington presents the most traditional interpretation with “What A Wonderful World.”

Mads Tolling’s sound is a little unusual but is brilliant in places. His ability to use his jazz training as the impetus for his jazz sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. Playing The 60s is a nice introduction to a musician with an unusual approach to his craft.

Rating: B

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