Per Henrik Wallin

Deep in a Dream

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Per Henrik Wallin is hardly known outside his native Sweden, but that's simply because he doesn't play out or record much. That's of little consequence to anybody but the listener who craves more of his strangely beguiling pianism. This set, recorded live at a summertime high school in front of a few friends, is Wallin at his best and most eccentric. His choice of material, a couple of originals, a large batch of tunes from the Broadway shows of the '20s and '30s -- some of which are jazz standards -- and one Monk number, is eclectic, pyrotechnically astonishing, and truly and weirdly instinctual. Wallin plays melodies and harmonies faithfully in tunes such as "A Ghost of a Chance," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "At Last," "Stairway to the Stars," and more. It's in the breaks and middle eights where Wallin lets his bravado and nonchalance of approach take over. Able to play notes as streamingly and as fluidly as Oscar Peterson and as percussively as Bud Powell or Thelonious Monk, with the directional changeability of Art Tatum, Wallin takes his solos to extremes, pushing the harmonic and rhythmic walls to the brink of disintegration with the insertion of other tunes, carnival melodies, endless arpeggio runs of radical muscularity in a ballad, an inversion of live that leads out onto a ledge it seems impossible to come back from, and more. He is dazzling with his sheer verve to be sure, but it is the substance of his pianism, with its rainbow chromaticism and punchy legato phrasing, that is nearly overwhelming in its joy of expression. This man is a pianist's pianist.

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