Mads Tolling and the Mads Men featuring Paula West
Yoshi’s Oakland, November 12, 2017
Mads Tolling is living a charmed life; internationally renowned violinist and composer, two-time Grammy Award-Winner with the Turtle Island Quartet and the 2016 DownBeat Critics Poll Rising Star winning violinist. Touring in support of his latest CD, “Mads Tolling & The Mads Men – Playing the 60s, Mads rounded up a seriously talented trio of local talent to highlight his dexterity, tonal elegance and genre-hoping musicality.
There’s a joyful playfulness in the opening number, a swing rendition of “Meet the Flintstones”, one of television most popular theme songs. Tolling tacks on a bar of “I Got Rhythm” to enhance the uniqueness and humor of the moment. Tolling allows pianist John R Burr, acoustic bassist Dan Feiszli and LA to SF transplant Colin McDaniel on drums all get their chances to shine, beautifully exhibited on Burr’s fantastic arrangement of Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. Burr lends the piece a New Orleans piano style reminiscent of Dr. John and McDaniel gets a tasty solo.
Tolling and Dan Feiszli collaborate on a brilliant cover of The Beatles “Good Morning, Good Morning” (J6ohn Lennon), using the melody as a jumping off point for some serious interplay. Tolling shows off on a solo of the Jimi Hendrix hit “Hey Joe” using his looping effects to create multiple melody lines. A lovely duet between Burr and Tolling on Burr’s 1994 hit “For the Asking” was peaceful and sublime.
And as if the instrumental work wasn’t mind-blowing enough, Tolling invited local jazz legend Paula West to join the quartet. West is a Dylan devotee and offered her confident versions of “Rolling Stone” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. West has a strong social sensibility, boldly on display on John Lennon’s 1971 “Gimme Some Truth”. When she spits out the lyrics “I’ve had enough of reading things, By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians, All I want is the truth, just give me some truth”, the obvious dig at the current political scene is clear.
It was great to hear West accompanied by Tolling’s violin. He’s so musically adept at blending in with the song’s style that even West’s country-boogie”-style blues “Cow Cow Boogie” (Don Raye, Benny Carter and Gene De Paul) is in his comfort zone. The set encore of “Wichita Lineman” is another of West’s favorite composers, Jimmy Webb. Her rounded, extended notes played off Tolling and the band’s lovely accompaniment.
I haven’t enjoyed a concert centering on the violin since I saw Jean Luc Ponty decades ago. Tolling, who considered Ponty a mentor and friend, is widening the appeal of jazz violin in a fun and appealing musical experience.