Music News


This week, we are revisiting some of the albums we liked in 2009, but didn't quite get to earlier in the year. We're calling our series, "Music We Missed."

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: The song you're hearing was written by Thom Yorke for the rock band Radiohead. But this version comes from a San Francisco Bay Area jazz musician. Mads Tolling is a virtuosic violin player. His album is called "The Playmaker."

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WERTHEIMER: Tolling is better known for his work with a classical ensemble. He plays violin in San Francisco's adventurous Turtle Island Quartet. With that group and on his own, Tolling delights in breaking down musical barriers. The Quartet won two Grammies for its classical take on John Coltrane. And Tolling's new jazz record begins and ends with rock tunes, covering lots of musical ground along the way.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: Tolling says this kind of music, crossover, used to have a bad reputation.

Mr. MAD TOLLING (Musician; Violinist): Crossover used to be Pavarotti singing "If I Were A Rich Man" or something, or people really crossing over not really knowing the other styles. Now, more and more, with all these great musicians such as Yo Yo Ma and Bela Fleck integrating different styles and playing them really well together, I don't think there are any boundaries for what you can do.

WERTHEIMER: This track is an original, dedicated to the great jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin. Tolling also does a Thelonious Monk tune and this version of a Danish folk song.

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WERTHEIMER: Tolling, now 29, grew up in Denmark and studied classical music as a child. Then, as a teen, he discovered Miles Davis.

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Mr. TOLLING: And I just started listening to it and I couldn't put it down. I just - I was so drawn to it. There was something about the intimacy and the space, and I needed to find a way to play that on my instrument which is the violin.

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WERTHEIMER: Tolling started by imitating horn solos. As he got into it, he discovered a long tradition of jazz musicians playing the violin. But still, he says, jazz is not an easy business to break into if you show up with a fiddle.

Mr. TOLLING: If you go to a jam session and people look kind of funny at you, that you're going to be playing a violin on a jazz jam session. So there's a little bit of a stigma with the strings and the violin, in particular, but you just got to do it. And when people know you, it becomes little bit of a novelty, too, which is fun.

WERTHEIMER: Violinist Mads Tolling likes to different. So, in that spirit, we'll go out on what must be the album's most unusual track. Tolling says jazz crowds love his cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog."

(Soundbite of song, "Black Dog")

WERTHEIMER: After all, he says, everyone knows Led Zeppelin, it's universal music. And that's the kind of music he wants to pay tribute to.

(Soundbite of music, "Black Dog")

WERTHEIMER: Tomorrow in our series, we'll hear a new band featuring one of Led Zeppelin's members.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of music, "Black Dog")

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