Ulf Wakenius


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For his second album for the Dragon label, Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius chose a set of songs of which most are dedications to jazz artists, present and past, he admires. The first cut, "The Greatest of Them All" (based on "Too Late Now"), gets right down to the core of matters as Wakenius tips his axe to one of the pioneers of modern jazz guitar, Wes Montgomery. Montgomery recorded this piece with organ and drums for Riverside in 1959. Wakenius chooses to go a cappella ballad style, using a slightly amped guitar featuring clean lines, much like Montgomery would build single notes into octaves. In contrast, Wakenius, while still sticking with his pure approach, shows off his digital dexterity and harmonic imagination on another tribute, this time "Notes to J.C.," with obvious reference to John Coltrane. This set is characterized by the incredible building of tension between the guitarist and pianist Åke Johansson, with Magnus Gran's cymbals not allowing for any respite in the pace of the playing. To run this fast for more than 18 minutes shows, if nothing else, the stamina of the players. And this is a performance before a live audience, so there's none of the electronic game playing one too often finds in studio recordings. At about eight minutes into the track, Wakenius breaks off for a rest and lets the rest of the rhythm section take over. This includes modern bass playing by Yasuhito Mori and a lengthy drum break by Gran before the guitar player returns to clean things up. This track is a superior example of jazz music at its improvisational best. The other superior homage piece is a pensive"Skylark," à la Jim Hall 1986. A fine album, and recommended.

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