Mads Tolling

Jazz Violinist; Composer
Class of 
2003
Alumni

Mads Tolling’s path was set at age 14 when his father gave him a Miles Davis cassette. The native of Copenhagen, Denmark, so identified with the freedom and spirit of  ‘60s jazz that he set on a path to bend his instrument, the violin, to that music. At age 20 he came to the United States to Berklee College of Music to pursue jazz studies, graduating summa cum laude in 2003.

While still at Berklee, he began touring with jazz great Stanley Clarke and has had an active touring career for more than a decade with his group Turtle Island String Quartet and the Mads Tolling Quartet in the United States and Europe. Tolling and Turtle Island won a Grammy for best crossover album with 4+four in 2006, and in 2008 won another for A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane.

As well as performing, he composes for his own albums, including Speed of Light, The Playmaker, and Celebrating Jean-Luc Ponty: Live at Yoshi, and was commissioned to write a violin concerto for Oakland East Bay Symphony in 2015. Tolling has long been active in teaching and coaching on jazz and improvisation. His eclectic view of jazz has led to such projects as Mads Men, a playful celebration of ‘60s style jazz classics, featuring Colin Hogan on piano, Sam Beven on bass, and Eric Garland on drums as well as Tolling.

Leo Kottke, with whom he has toured, describes Tolling as “a virtuoso who doesn’t abandon his listeners. This is fascinating, hooky, and satisfying music, and Mads takes it beyond the academy and back to the ear.”

As Tolling’s career expands along with awards from Denmark’s Sankt Annae award to the 2016 DownBeat Rising Star Critics Poll-Violin, the San Francisco, California, resident concentrates on spreading the word about jazz to new generations of string players.