There's a reason why the violin always, Robert Johnson notwithstanding, appears in conjunction with the the great horned one: it's a devilishly difficult instrument to master. Therefore, whenever a soloist of note appears, it's a bit of an event. Mads Tolling has tamed the four-string raspbox to such a degree that he's earning praise from Jean-Luc Ponty, perhaps the most successful and beloved player in rock and jazz. Then there's Tolling's membership in the Turtle Island Quartet and his work with Stanley Clarke, who sits in here.
It doesn't stop there, though, as Russ Ferrante, Stefon Harris, and Jeff Marrs likewise appear, known for their keyboard, vibes, and drum work respectively. Not heralded on the cover credits, however, is Mike Abraham, a guitarist of considerable presence and dynamics, a cat molded in the Mike Stern vein. The CD's center is an odd theme regarding sports and teamwork. Tolling harbors a love for the discipline and group centrism athletes hold in common with musicians, so he wrote a three-part suite fractionating the elements: The Playmaker (for Tom Brady), The Contemplator (for Zinedine Zidane), and The Risktaker (for LeBron James). One needn't be a sportsman to appreciate the import of each section, even though (heh!) a packet of football cards came with my copy of the disc, but the traits memorialized are easy to see, The Risktaker being the most energetic and malleable.
Tolling covers Radiohead (Just) and Led Zeppelin (Black Dog) as well as tributizing Jaco Pastorius in Pee Wee Ellis' The Chicken, and that trio's a good indication of his range as the violinist drops atonality and tempo shifts into Zep's classic while funking up The Chicken to a Dixie Dregs-ish presentation. Then there's his Carnatic cut for John McLaughlin (Starmaker Machinery), and, if you want an indication of just how precise his whirlwind playing can be, this is the place, with Abraham at first contrasting the Mahavishnu element with Devotion snatches until cranking up into the Orchestra's stratosphere of flurried whirligigs. Heady within its sixty-fourths and jetstream pace, it's still of a piece with the entire disc, which is pristine, variegated, and the sort of release that keeps the violin firmly anchored in the music pantheon.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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