Ulf Wakenius

Dig In

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Swedish guitar player Ulf Wakenius appears to have taken the structure of the title tune of his album Dig In from modal music. With the genre's subtle tension in the forefront, it recalls the major proponents of this jazz style, namely Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock. It is therefore no accident that the presence of another Hancock classic minor blues, "Eye of the Hurricane," has found its way onto the musical roster of the album, becoming the pièce de résistance of the CD. Also here is modal musician Wayne Shorter's "Night Dreamer," which was on his first album for the Blue Note label back in 1964. From this partial list, one can easily, and correctly, conclude that this album is loaded with clever and intricate improvisations -- listen to "Duke" -- with tautness that ebbs and flows from one song to the next as well as within each piece. This is the type of music one hears in good small clubs, whether the spot is located in the old city in Stockholm or in uptown New York. Dazzling individual performances by each of the members of the quartet form the basis for one set of ideas feeding off another. On "Eye of the Hurricane," Wakenius' guitar becomes the inspiration for Gösta Rundqvist's piano and the drum breaks of Jukkis Uotila. It's Uotila who sets the music in motion on a freewheeling interpretation of the standard "Falling in Love With Love," letting the guitar player ride on and take a few measures before he picks up on the melody. This is tough, tense stuff that takes more than a full nine minutes to evolve before reaching a climax. This CD also has that unique Swedish jazz feel, which was built up over the years by performers from that country who could be considered among the very best on the European scene, including Bengt Halberg, Arne Domnérus, and Bernt Rosengren, to name just a very few. This is a new generation of stylists, keeping the unique Swedish jazz tradition alive while expanding on it with modern ideas. Highly recommended.

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