Thollem McDonas

Thollem McDonas: Pianist for the people
Andrew Scott
Thollem McDonas: Pianist for the people


Thollem McDonas, and Gannon Burleigh are scheduled to perform on Sunday, December 2, at Modified Arts.

Much like free-jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, who pioneered an unapologetic sound birthed from classical training, San Francisco-based Thollem McDonas manages to perform solo piano in a unique, powerfully creative way. And, like those unappreciated cats who lived in shabby tenements in New York City during the 1960s, McDonas once put himself through self-imposed poverty instead of taking a lucrative teaching gig playing the music of other people. But now, he has found a balance between perpetually broke vagabond musician and jazz puppet master, and lives a more mature, modest lifestyle in order to play music that he labels "post-classical circus punk world jazz free music, for people and everyone else." Sometimes, he even performs this music without being invited to do so — rumor has it that he joined a number of Chicago's best improvisers on stage in Detroit of his own volition. We guess these things happen when one's existence doesn't rely on reinterpreting the music of the masses.

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