A fresh, disciplined avant-pianist with an attractively extreme viewpoint” (LA Weekly), Thollem travels perpetually as a performer, comproviser, activist and teacher, covering much of the North American continent and Europe. He performs as a soloist as well as in collaboration with a wide array of artists in wildly divergent directions. In the past 7 years, he has added 30 albums to his discography on 13 different vanguard labels in 4 different countries.
Thollem McDonas (b. 1967, US) is a pianist, composer, improviser and teacher. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of Irish and Cherokee descent. At the age of five, he began studying the keyboard repertoire from the medieval to the 20th century and studied with many notable teachers including Aiko Onishi and Lou Harrison. After graduating with degrees in both piano performance and composition, he stepped from the concert pianist trajectory to dedicate his time to grassroots political movements and ecological restoration projects. In 2005, he returned to music as his full focus, incorporating his experiences into his compositions, improvisations and teaching. Since then, he has added 30 albums to his discography on 12 different vanguard record labels in 4 different countries. He is currently touring perpetually as a soloist, in collaboration with many other individuals and groups, as well as leading large ensemble free improvisation/collaboration workshops as well as master classes. He has performed extensively as a soloist as well as with film makers, dancers, poets and painters and a wide array of divergent musicians. His music is diverse, with each album and every concert exploring a variety of approaches and paths, resulting in dramatically different outcomes....
AwardsAmerican Music Center: CAP, 2010 - 'Stirring Awake' debuted at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation: USArtists, 2009 - Estamos Ensemble, Director (funding assistance for participation in The International Festival of Puebla in Puebla, Mexico) Meet the Composer: Creative Connections, 2007 (concert accompanied by a discussion with the composer)
Thollem McDonas 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. - Greg Burk, LA Weekly
Thollem dives headlong into fascinating unforeseen and bold musical adventures that make him one of the most interesting pianists of the current improvised music genre...the result is the natural consequence of being intrinsically eclectic at heart. - Eduardo Chagas, TomaJazz (Portugal)
“With McDonas we are faced with overflowing and irrepressible exuberance.” - AllAboutJazz (Italy)
Pianist Thollem McDonas solo piano set touched on virtually every genre of music. Dressed in a t-shirt, cargo slacks, and old work boots, McDonas didn’t have the disposition or attitude of a music virtuoso. He looked more like a skilled laborer. But he constructed a set of improvised music that had all the creativity and energy of Thelonious Monk and Igor Stravinsky playing at a neighborhood jam session. - I DIG JAZZ - Charles L. Latimer's Jazz Journal
Thollem McDonas is simply one of the great improvisers of today. - The Detroiter
Thollem has that rare gift of soulful equilibrium, which he alternates with digital dexterities that have few equals on the current scene. - Massimo Ricci, TouchingExtremes (Italy)
“The playing of McDonas is not only of a high technical standard, but also very communicative. His music is drenched in many musical traditions, and McDonas succeeds in making an original brew of it.” - Dolf Mulder, Vital Weekly (Holland)
“His sound ecosystem is wet, like a rain forest dripping with life and death: shadowed in darkness but nourished by hot sunlight, teeming with crouching predators and bright birds exploding from the trees, their raucous bellows resonating and echoing through hollow canyons and caverns choked with chordal undergrowth. It’s a crowded place.” - Tom Djll, Signal To Noise
Dub Narcotic SessionEdgetone Records
Emergency Management HeistEdgetone Records
The Gowanus SessionEdgetone Records
The Gowanus SessionsPorter Records
Gone Beyond Reason To Find OneEdgetone Records
On Debussy's Piano And...Edgetone Records
All For NowEdgetone Records
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