MUSIC - Mads Tolling, Violinist, Violist and Composer


Mads was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark.  At the age of 20 he came to the United States to "pursue jazz studies". He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, studying under violinist Matt Glaser (an American jazz and bluegrass violinist who served as the chair of the string department at the Berklee College of Music for more than twenty-five years, and later became the founder and artistic director of Berklee's American Roots Music Program). Mads graduated summa cum laude from the Berklee College of Music in 2003.

While at Berklee, Mads was recommended to join Stanley Clarke's band by renowned jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. "Since then, he has performed more than 100 concerts with Clarke worldwide, including the Newport Jazz Festival and the Hollywood Bowl."

Mads is a member of the Grammy Award-Winning "Turtle Island Quartet". He performed as violist with the quartet between 2003-2007.  As his skills grew, he rose to the 1st violinist position in 2007 and continues to hold that seat. As part of Turtle Island Quartet, Mads won a Grammy in 2006 for Best Classical Crossover album, “4+Four”. The Turtle Island Quartet, with Mads was nominated for a Grammy again in 2008 for “A Love Supreme - The Legacy of John Coltrane”. Mads "has received Denmark’s Sankt Annae’s Award for Musical Excellence as well as grants from Queen Margaret, the Sonning Foundation and the Berklee Elvin Jones Award. He has performed with Paquito d’Rivera, Kenny Barron, Joe Lovano, Stefon Harris, The Assad Brothers and Leo Kottke."

He is an accomplished composer with three recordings of original material, one features the well-known pianist JoAnne Brackeen.   Another with vibraphonist Dave Samuels and the third on RMB singer Teena Marie’s recording “La Dona”. He has contributed numerous arrangements and compositions to the Turtle Island Quartet’s repertoire.

Mads is viewed as "a thriving force in the educational aspects of jazz and improvisation. He has been active as a Yamaha clinician and has been involved in workshops, coachings and master classes throughout Canada and the U.S.".


Mads Tolling and the Mads Men: Playing the 60s (2017)

From the first arco tones, something sounds very familiar, yet hard to identify. The tone in question is big and full, dry, but not too much so. Were this tone a libation, it would be an Old Fashion. Sleek and commanding, yes, this makes me think of Svend Asmussen. This should be no surprise both wunderkind Mads Tolling and Asmussen are Danes with solid technical ability on the violin and a prodigious knowledge of the jazz songbook. Assmussen has just celebrated his 100th birthday and I wish him many more. But I am glad to live in a world that produced Mads Tolling, because he is something special. - (excerpt) ~ C. MICHAEL BAILEY -

Mads Tolling / Mads Tolling Quartet: Celebrating Jean-Luc Ponty: Live at Yoshi's (2012)

Mads Tolling caught the attention of jazz violin fans for his work as a member of the wide-ranging Turtle Island String Quartet, which he left in early 2012. One of his inspirations has long been violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, who started playing bop, moved into fusion and rock, delved into world music and more. Joined by electric guitarist Mike Abraham, electric bassist George Ban-Weiss, and drummer Eric Garland, Tolling pays tribute to Ponty with a powerful set from a single evening at Yoshi's in Oakland. Opening with pieces that he recorded with John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra ("Life's Dance") and as part of the all-star trio Rite of Strings with Stanley Clarke and Al Dimeola ("Song for John"), the violinist immediately signals that his salute will cover a lot of ground, including unexpected tunes. Tolling follows them with a subtle take of Nat Adderley's melancholy bop vehicle "Old Country," where the quartet interacts rather than merely accompanies the leader. Tolling has more surprises in store with his creative medley that blends snippets of Ponty's well-known '70s compositions "The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea," "Enigmatic Ocean," and "Bowing-Bowing," with a driving take of Frank Zappa's furious rock gem "King Kong." - (excerpt) ~ Ken Dryden -


From Mad Tolling's "THE PLAYMAKER" CD

Mads Tolling, internationally renowned violinist, violist, and composer, is a two time
Grammy Award-Winner.  He is currently a member of the Turtle Island Quartet and soloist with bassist Stanley Clarke’s band. Born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, Mads moved to Boston to study at Berkeley College of Music. Mads was immediately recognized as a fresh voice in jazz, and his career went into full swing performing with top artists such as Al Di Meola, Kenny Barron, Paquito d’Rivera & Leo Kottke.

Mads’ sophomore CD release “The Playmaker” features jazz greats Russell Ferrante & Stanley Clarke along with vibes extraordinaire Stefon Harris. Hear these leading musicians along with a violinist, who views his instrument as part fiddle, part saxophone, part acoustic and electric violin. Mads Tolling is a leading innovator in string playing, and this recording of jazz, fusion, funk, classical, Danish folk along with rock & roll arrangements of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and Radiohead’s “Just,” encapsulates his point of view.

“The Playmaker” conveys the connection between sports and music. In sports, the playmaker’s role is to facilitate his teammates for scoring opportunities - to bring them, and ultimately the team, success. This is what musicians do: make their band mates sound better by supporting them during a solo, making the band sound greater than any one of its parts In the titular Tolling original, “The Playmaker Suite,” each of the movements is dedicated to three athletes who are truly great at what they do, while serving their teammates and representing their sport to the highest degree possible. Likewise, for three of the remaining songs, they are dedicated to musicians, who had that same greatness in their music making, while being true “playmakers” on the bandstand.
Liner notes by Bill Milkowski (Author and writer for Jazz Times).

Link to Band Bios and One Sheet PDF file.



“I recommend this CD for some serious listening. It's hard to accept it at face value, in my opinion, because there's a lot going on in the music. I think jazz violin has had its struggle for recognition, and Mads Tolling gives jazz violin a hopeful and vibrant placement in the collection with his heartfelt playing and musical talent in this recording.” 
  ANALYN REVILLA ~ City of the Angels Music Opinion Page

“Mads has the amazing talent and skills that few young musicians can match. His music is both beautiful and refreshing exhibiting his superb mastery of the modern American Jazz music that is rarely seen among his peers.”
Jean-Luc Ponty

“Overall, a wondrously balanced and stylish outing that sustains repeated listens. Tolling and his bandmates provide the requisite.”
Glenn Astarita ~

“In the album's liner notes, he explains that "in sports, the playmaker's role is to facilitate his teammates, and in music it's kind of the same thing." The lineup includes bassist Clarke, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and keyboardist Russell Ferrante and Tolling consistently benefits from their input. Yet while there's sufficient firepower to fuel the rock covers, the album's highlights often find Tolling and company nimbly exploring swing, ballads and blues.”
Mike Joyce ~ Washington Post


Mads Tolling's — "Danish Dessert"

Mads Tolling's — "The Playmaker"