|Mads Mathias. Photo credit: Zapolska Design|
Danish vocalist/saxophonist Mads Mathias previews his first UK tour, which begins at Pizza Express Dean Street on 24th February:
I have only been to London once before in my life. I was about 14 years old and on a school trip. I remember walking on Denmark Street (coincidentally) when I suddenly saw a beautiful golden Conn saxophone displayed in a window. I had always wanted an old golden Conn sax, so I went directly into the shop, tried it, and made the guy call my dad up on the phone and transfer the money.
I still have that sax today, I play it every day and it’s always been my favourite instrument.
I grew up in a home where everybody played something all the time - my two brothers on trumpet and drums, my dad on the piano and my short mum on the double bass, standing on a box so she could reach the top of the strings. We had a family band and played jazz of course. If we were not playing, we were listening to records. I understand now that the stuff we heard back then is a big part of my music now. I guess because it brings back a lot of great memories.
We also lived in Tanzania for 6 years and I dug the music there, which is very rhythmic and groove based, but at bedtime, songs were old Danish folk songs.
I remember all through life, when I've heard music that moved me I would think 'this is the shit. This is what it's supposed to sound like.' I think that those moments have rooted themselves and the music I make is all a product of that.
The most essential thing for me is the melody. I have always been roused by a strong melody and in my songwriting I always start with the melody, then the harmony and then the lyrics of the song always come at the very end. The melody kind of points to the lyrics and starts the story or the theme of the song. I play the song in different grooves and styles to find out where the melody works best, but for some reason I often end up with a swing feel. People always tell me 'you write old school jazz stuff' and that’s cool, but I don’t really think of it like that. In jazz there is a strong and articulate language that appeals to me, but a lot of my music I don't envisage as a specific genre, but when the swing beat is added you get jazz I guess...
I admire a lot of different songwriters from Duke Ellington to Burt Bacharach and Dolly Parton, it's not about the genre for me, it’s about the strong melody.
Maybe because I also play saxophone, I see vocals as an instrument like any other, and I tend to especially like instrumentalists who also sing, for instance a favourite musician right now is Dan Tyminski, a bluegrass singer and instrumentalist.
I'm very excited about playing in the UK for the first time ever and about how you guys will receive my music....
I love the direct, unfiltered contact with an audience and therefore really like playing intimate jazz clubs where we can snuggle and cuddle up nice and close, so I’m looking forward to discovering the UK club venues we’ll be visiting on the tour. I’ve just finished a big tour singing with the Danish Radio Big Band, so it’ll be good to get back to playing in a small group, where the dynamic is much more direct, and the music is more open and improvised, and I’m really excited to be collaborating with four amazing UK musicians, who I’ve heard some great recordings of – Colin Oxley on guitar, Andrew Cleyndert & Oli Hayhurst on bass and Dave Ohm on drums.
The pianist I work with a lot in Denmark, Peter Rosendal, will be touring with us too. Peter and I both grew up in a small Danish town called Silkeborg. Although we went to the same little school we didn't have much contact in the beginning. Peter had severe problems with his eyes and couldn't withstand the sunlight, so he would always be in a dark room on his own, practicing his beloved piano. And so I remember when we finally started playing together he was miles ahead of me, which really made me thrive at getting better quickly! Peter started recording his own music really early and was working on the jazz scene at a young age. He has now released 10 albums and has won several Danish Music Awards in both folk and jazz genres. He has a certain ‘velvet touch’ to his playing that makes even the moldiest bashed up piano sound light and sweet. His swing is incomparable and the ease with which he plays reveals his virtuosity. We have played together for about 20 years now, written songs together, arranged music together and have established a partnership that’s really strong, which I really appreciate.
We'll be playing my original music from the album 'Free Falling' and also some of my more recent compositions. If I were to say something to characterize my songbook in general, it would probably be the importance of the good melody.
I love playing other composer’s great songs too, so we’ll also be playing selected tunes from the Great American Songbook.
Tue 24th Feb – Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street
Thu 26th Feb – Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking
Fri 27th Feb - Pizza Express Music Room, Maidstone
Sat 28th Feb – The Cinnamon Club, Altrincham, Cheshire.
LINKS: Mads Mathias' website
Mads Mathias’ album ‘Free Falling’ is in full on Bandcamp