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Mads Tolling: The Playmaker

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Former wide receiver Michael Irvin earned his nickname, "The Playmaker," for his leadership and performance with the Dallas Cowboys. Violinist Mads Tolling honors several others whose play-making proficiency has helped their teams, whether in the athletic arena or on the stage.

A two-time Grammy Award-winner, Tolling is a native of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is a member of the Turtle Island Quartet, but has also performed with Al Di Meola, Kenny Barron, Paquito D'Rivera and Leo Kottke. For The Playmaker, he is accompanied mostly by bassist George Ban-Weiss, guitarist Mike Abraham and drummer Eric Garland. A few others contribute, including Stanley Clarke and Russell Ferrante.

The Playmaker suite begins with "The Playmaker," dedicated to National Football League star Tom Brady. It's an upbeat, yet easygoing selection. The rhythm section of Ban-Wess, Garland and Ferrante is sharp behind Tolling's lead. Ferrante solos on piano, backed by an electric bass line that is emphatic but not overbearing.

"The Risktaker" begins as a high-energy piece, with Ferrante's keyboard and Tolling's violin delivering a frantic lead. The pace downshifts to a strut, with the guitar adding a reggae feel. The tempo goes back and forth, much like a basketball team would shift from fast break to half court, either of which could suit LeBron James, to whom this track is dedicated. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is an effective sixth man next to Tolling, Garland, Ban-Weiss, Abraham and Ferrante, offering up a tasteful solo.

Ferrante is back to acoustic piano for "El Duderino," one of the few songs not dedicated to a playmaker. This track turns out to be a charming ballad. Tolling presents his more classical side, leaving room for Ferrante to show his skills.

Tolling and his sidemen rock on with a crafty cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." Abraham plays the electric like a classic rocker during a call-and-response with Tolling.

Other tracks are also dedicated to playmakers, among which are Zinedine Zidane, John McLaughlin, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Jaco Pastorius. Tolling composed six of the eleven tracks on this album.

Track Listing: Just; The Playmaker (for Tom Brady); The Contemplator (for Zinedine Zidane); The Risktaker (for LeBron James); El Duderino; Starmaker Machinery (for John McLaughlin); Loki in the Pokey; I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro (for NHOP); The Chicken (for Jaco Pastorius); Blue Monk; Black Dog.

Personnel: Mads Tolling: violin; Mike Abraham: guitar (1, 3, 4, 6-11); George Ban-Weiss: acoustic and electric basses (1, 2, 4-11); Eric Garland: drums (1-5, 7-10); Stanley Clarke: acoustic bass (3); Russell Ferrante: piano and keyboard (2, 4, 5); Stefon Harris: vibraphone (3, 4); Jeff Mars: drums (6, 11).

Title: The Playmaker | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Madsman Records

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