Torben Waldorff


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Torben Waldorff is a new electric guitarist on the scene deserving a close listen and keen attention. His distinctly contemporary stylings certainly fall along the lines of Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Adam Rogers, Steve Cardenas, Joel Harrison, Ben Monder and the like. More relaxed and frugal, less dependent on effects and pedals, Waldorff offers an amplified sound that is warm, effusive, and uncomplicated. His quintet, featuring the marvelous tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, hits on six shared cylinders of trust, unification, symmetry, balance, benevolence, and spirit. While Waldorff wrote most of this original music, the strength of its sound is centered not so much in his ability to lead, but his concept in pulling the load alongside his quite capable sidemen. Sam Yahel in particular is a great member of the mule team, switching up tracks on Fender Rhodes, organ, or acoustic piano. Bassist Matt Clohesy, a modern jazz player deserving wider recognition, plays his central figure in these dialogues well, while drummer Jon Wikan is a new name to most, asserting his musicality in a professional, finite, and unobtrusive manner. The symmetry between Waldorff and McCaslin is obvious from the start on the uncomplicated and breezy "Daze" done in a 7/8 time signature trickle charged by electric piano, as well as the simple laid-back waltz line of "Espresso Crescent" and the spacious, unhurried deep blue ballad "Eel Thye Deeflat." Measured steps are doled out in increments, not giant steps, during the light Brazilian piece penned by Maria Schneider "Choro Dancado" with Waldorff switching up rhythm and lead lines, while Yahel's piano measures the precise proportions for the singsong "Skyliner," a piece that approaches both bop and New Orleans shuffle. Yahel's Fender Rhodes work is best heard on the serene and soulful "Heimat" with Waldorff's slight echo guitar, and his organ playing for "JWS" approaches country and hymnal refrains alongside McCaslin's sweet tenor. A bluesy creep "Man in the Black Hat" is written by Wikan in a darker and modal slink, while "Squealfish" (soli composed by Joel Miller) is the quickest, most angular number in 3/4 time, with Waldorff's tiny notes contrasted against a steely tone. A very consistent and enjoyable date, it is one that most guitar fans will find refreshing. Waldorff's further efforts should easily prove as enlightening as this one.

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