Thor Madsen

thor6Guitarist, composer and producer Thor Madsen is quickly making a name for himself on the New York music scene. He is a musician of great diversity who embraces a wide range of musical styles spanning from acoustic jazz over funky, urban grooves to dub-influenced electronic music.

Thor’s recent release, Metal Dog features saxophonist Douglas Yates, bassplayer Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig. Thor Madsen says about the album: “The compositions recorded…are
heavily influenced by my introduction to New York. I had moved from Denmark to New York in fall of 1997, and what affected me the most was the rhythm of New York. There were rhythms everywhere. In the way people walked and talked, in the sound of the traffic and in the music”. An album with the Danish trio 123 is to be released in November 2000 covering music by the great jazz composers like Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson and Ornette Coleman.
Madsen just recently joined Wax Poetic lead by saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin. Wax Poetic’s debut album was released on Atlantic Records in June 2000. The band has been touring on the east coast and in Europe creating quite a buzz with it’s funky, jazzy groove based music. Thor Madsen has also and ongoing collaboration with producer and drummer Dana Murray. Together with bassplayer Eric Revis, keayboardist James Hurt and various vocalist they have created an original style of music which mixes funk, hiphop, oldskool R & B and country(!). Still a work in progress some of these tracks are to be released on newly founded label Nexxus Music. Dana Murray and Thor Madsen are also the production/engineering team behind alto saxophonist Sherman Irby’s comming album Black Warrior.

Thor Madsen also produces his own electronic music under the name Mazza. This music is an organic mixture of elements from drum ‘n bass, house, down tempo and dub music with occasional hints to the world of jazz and jazzguitar. 2 tracks were released on the War Child benefit multimedia CD by Yesmamma / Magex in England. The CD was printed in 100.000 copies of which 50.000 were distributed with DJ Magazine (July 2000). An EP of 3 Mazza tracks are scheduled to be released on Reflective Records in February 2001.
Thor Madsen is also working as a freelance producer for the recording studio Temple Of Soul in New York and for the record label X-ist.

Thor Madsen has played and recorded with numerous groups in his native Denmark. Recently he toured with singer Dicte with appearances at Roskilde Festival, broadcasted on MTV Europe, and showcases in London.

From the Metal Dog Liner Notes:

I met Doug at a jam session sometime in the beginning of 1998 through tenor sax man Matt Otto. I had never heard anybody play the saxophone like that. He was so on fire and so loose at the same time. He reminded me of Jimi Hendrix meets Eric Dolphy. At this time I had just begun writing jazz tunes again after a period of working in other genres and Doug was perfect for my music.

tm_coverIn the fall of 1998 I was looking for a new drummer. I had been hearing the name Ari Hoenig a lot, but never gotten a chance to hear him play. I went to piano wizard Jean-Michel Pilcs trio gig with Ari Hoenig on drums and French bass player François Moutin. The chemistry between them was magic and I knew right away that I wanted Ari and François in my band. It took a little while before they were both available on the same date but when we finally played together, I was really thrilled.

The compositions recorded on this album are heavily influenced by my introduction to New York. I had moved from Denmark to New York in fall of 1997, and what affected me the most was the rhythm of New York. There were rhythms everywhere. In the way people walked and talked, in the sound of the traffic and in the music. The song Metal-hunden began with a pattern I was humming on the street. I worked out the pattern in my head, singing it to myself before I actually sat down and put notes to it. I was thinking about how you can recognize almost any Thelonious Monk tune, just on the rhythm of the melody. For the recording we decided to speed up and slow down during the head and Ari kept playing with the tempo throughout the tune. Speaking of Monk: somebody told me years ago that everybody was always trying to make the bridge different from the A part except Monk. So after trying a lot of different bridges for Little Q I ended up with one that is transposed version of the A part with a different ending. Interference, the opening track of the album is another example of a song, which is based on a rhythmic idea. Throughout the solos we play off of the rhythmic grid of the tune. This is a concept Danilo Perez taught me. He called it playing the codes. Monk always played the codes.

Another thing I started to develop after moving to New York was a different approach to chords. This happened in two ways. George Garzone turned me on to improvising on chord changes with a lot more freedom. George was and still is a great inspiration for me (listen to The Fringe Live In Israel and you will know why). I also started using a new kind of chord structure in my compositions. This chord structure is the composite of 3 different tonalities, and its kind of dark and full of suspense. El Niño was the first piece I wrote using this type of chord and I later used it in Phobia, After The Munchies and Interference. The piece is a series of waves building up tension, released in bursts of energy. It has a sort of charged atmosphere, which I find intriguing: soft against hard, consonance against dissonance, simple against complex; like the taste of olives or anchovies or capers. Something you can like and dislike at the same time.

Simple Song was written after a Tricky concert in New York. Between sets they played instrumental reggae and dub music with very simple horn lines and I was immediately captivated. The music was so strong and emotional and straightforward at the same time and thats what I went for in Simple Song. I think it adds a soothing contrast to the more complex tunes.

All my gratitude goes out to Doug, François and Ari, for infusing these recordings with their incredible talent and inspiration. None of the above would mean a thing without their vast ability to make music.

-Thor Madsen