For years, Thollem has relentlessly followed his curiosities, complimented by rigorous study, hard work and a peripatetic lifestyle. After spending his 20s and 30s dedicated to grassroots activism, for the past 10 years he has redirected his focus back to his music, folding his myriad of experiences into his work. In this last decade alone, he has played well over 1,000 concerts throughout N. America and Europe as a soloist as well in collaboration with hundreds of musicians, dancers, and filmmakers. He has released over 40 albums in that span as leader or co-leader on 18 different vanguard labels, to international critical acclaim. As a soloist, he has been heralded world-wide as one of the most exciting pianists alive, tackling complexities invented spontaneously with seemingly impossible velocity.
"Thollem McDonas thinks quicker than God, but his pressure-packed melodic constructions don't leave you in the dust. Thollem does what few can: He combines extreme imagination with terrific post-classical chops and an ability to communicate through melody. A fresh, disciplined avant-pianist with an attractively extreme viewpoint. Unreal linear explosions."
Greg Burk, LA Weekly
Of Irish and Cherokee descent, the San Francisco Bay Area pianist's approach represents years of rigorous classical training, as well as perpetual explorations throughout N. America and Europe. His compositions and improvisations articulate integrations and collisions of influences from the wide array of musical approaches and experiences that have peaked his curiosity throughout his life. Thollem has been traveling perpetually throughout many countries over the years, challenging himself experientially, often playing with a wide variety of artists in extremely different contexts. He has been delving into the piano, excavating depths of sound and energy for 47 years engaging the imagination differently from moment to moment with a stream of unique musical worlds.
"His solo piano compositions are a wonder, mastering harmonics to transform 88 keys into texturally staggering ensemble. His motion is kinetic, even as he slows, somehow expressing both patience and restlessness. He's a magnificent player and a free-music veteran and member of several world-class groups, but his talent is most awing when it's just him and a piano." -Detroit Metro Times (U.S.)
"His imagination is overwhelming and unstoppable as a flood, as powerful as the fast current, often as a red-hot lava. A continuous flow, often turbulent, sometimes stops in temporary pools of calm, the mood sweeter or absorbed. With McDonas we are faced with overflowing and irrepressible exuberance." - AllAboutJazz (Italy)
"It seems beyond the capacity of one human being to contain so much densely-packed creative energy..." - Tom Djll, Signal To Noise
"Thollem inhabits a world uniquely his own, rhythmically, harmonically and formally. A true original." - Terry Riley
"Transgresses genre boundaries as much as transcends them." - Dave Wayne, All About Jazz, NY
"A particularly powerful voice." - David Keenan, The Wire
Saturday, May 2, 2015
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Photos by Angela C Villa & Bob Aron
This event is sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts