The Guitar Artistry of Ulf Wakenius

Ulf Wakenius

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The Guitar Artistry of Ulf Wakenius Review

by Dave Nathan

For the first time in a recording history that dates back to 1983, Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius has decided to go it alone with an album of a cappella acoustic guitar performances. Like his earlier recordings, he has a number of dedications to jazz guitarists, present and bygone, who he admires and to whom he feels he owes a part of his own artistry. Thus, there is a three-tune medley entitled "Barney Goes to Brazil," which notes Barney Kessel's guitar performances of three Brazilian masterpieces. Switching gears, or perhaps chords, he tips his axe to Joe Pass with "Li'l Darlin'" and then really reaches with "Cherokee," devoted to country picker Hank Garland. But this is no copycat album by any means. Wakenius has built up such a body of work over the years that he need not rely on emulating anyone to get attention. This album further demonstrates his impeccable, tasteful, and often subtle technique. A small note insertion here, a slight inflection there, alterations of voicings along the way -- all contribute to this guitar player's incredibly good sound. He can move from a rhythmically charged, up-tempo piece such as "Sweet Georgia Brown" to sweet and sentimental -- but not saccharine and maudlin -- renditions of classic ballads such as "When You Wish Upon a Star" or "On Green Dolphin Street" to a bluesy "Blues of O. P.," dedicated to Oscar Peterson, whose quartet he is a member of. When confronted with an album whose title announces it "the artistry of," listeners are all too often likely to find that such terminology is somewhat self serving. This is not the case here. Wakenius is an artist who deserves greater attention as an overlord of the instrument.

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