Mads Thorsen Quartet: Sad Tetrahedron

Danish guitarist evokes something of John McLaughlin but also Jim Hall, Grant Green, Ralph Towner and local world-class talent Niclas Knudsen


The opener, Medium Elvin (a paradoxically sedate paean to the inspirational powerhouse drummer Elvin Jones), imparts a comforting warmth, evoking John McLaughlin’s spectacular Extrapolation (Polydor, 1969) the quartet recording with John Surman that firmly established McLaughlin as Britain’s premier jazz guitarist and soon after as an international star.

But on closer evaluation the comparison between these two albums recorded 50 years apart doesn’t quite hold true. Whilst the compositions presented here are not as immediately imprinted to the memory as some of those on McLaughlin’s record, Thorsen’s tunes are undeniably well-crafted and perfectly balanced. In truth there isn’t a sub-par track on the album.

Danish guitarist Mads Thorsen’s influences include the giants of jazz such as Jim Hall, Grant Green and Ralph Towner but also his fellow local virtuoso guitarist Niclas Knudsen (definitely worth checking out). Thorsen’s lush comping is regularly punctuated by limpid, melodic cascades of notes. Running through the whole record, there’s also a swinging bop sensibility as heard for example on the breezy Misfit Meets Nitwit.

Thorsen also evokes McLaughlin’s semi-acoustic tone on tracks such as the ruminative ballad Aleksijevitj and the shimmering title track. Thorsen’s playing is complemented by the majestic tenor saxophone of Thomas Hass, surely one of Denmark’s finest jazz musicians. 

Thorsen’s quartet performs as a tight unit with sterling support from an excellent rhythm section comprising bassist Anders Fjedlsted and drummer Henrik Holst Hansen who both also play in Fjedlsted’s Getxo International Jazz Contest prize-winning sextet.

On its website JazzDanmark describes Thorsen as “one of Copenhagen’s hidden treasures playing swinging and melodic jazz guitar” and this is no hyperbolic description. His latest album attests to the fact that his limpid electric guitar playing, undistorted by effects pedals, is world class and he really should be heard much more. Danish jazz audiences are lucky to have him. Sad Tetrahedron possesses sufficient complexity and depth to entice listeners to replay this wholly satisfying album frequently. 

Medium Elvin; This Is Your Key Now; Hikikomori Glory; Sad Tetrahedron; Misfit Meets Nitwit; Aleksijevitj; Kitty Call; Shimmery Eye (53.56)
Thorsen (elg); Thomas Hass (ts); Anders Fjeldsted (b); Henrik Holst Hansen (d). Copenhagen, February 2020.
Gateway Music