Danish guitarist/composer Torben Waldorff's fourth release, Afterburn, manages to unite European sensibilities with American post-bop vibes. Throughout this impressive recording Waldorffnow based in Malmo, Swedendelivers sophisticated harmonies and an elaborate compositional architecture with a distinctive guitar sound owing more to Metheny, circa his ECM days of more than twenty years ago, than to Scofield. But Waldorff also saves enough room for his musicians to open up these compositions, to explore and even to err while doing so. Waldorff defines this process as "beautiful mistakes."
As with other ArtistShare releases, Waldorff knows how to use the interactive format, and his site offers extra material including an online Transatlantic jam session between Waldorff in Sweden, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and percussionist Jon Wikan in New York, and saxophonist Joel Miller in Montreal. Afterburn was recorded in New York, with the beautiful design done in Berlin and featuring photos of Waldorff's grandmother, variety artist Lore Woger.
For this recording Waldorff enlisted his musical soul mate, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Waldorff was a student with McCaslinwell known for his work with Maria Schneider's Orchestra and Dave Douglas' Quintet, as well as his own solo releasesat Berklee College of Music in the 1980s, and together they have developed an almost telepathic understanding. The line-up is augmented with versatile keyboard player Sam Yahel and the tight rhythm section of bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Wikan.
Waldorff and McCaslin's unison lines mark the spirit of this release on the upbeat "Daze," "Espresso Crescent" and "Squealish," where both expand and extend each other's flux of ideas through nuanced, dense and rich textures, each with surprising turns and powerfully assured solos. The atmosphere is altered during a cover of Schneider's beautiful big band composition, "Choro Dançado," from Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004)a charming piece influenced by the Brazilian choro and filled with counterpoint, Waldorff and his quintet retaining its romantic feel with a remarkable set of playful solos. "Heimat" turns the set more meditative, with an articulate solo by Waldorff that keeps lingering on the memory long after it's over.
"Eal Thye Deeflat" features the quintet in exploratory mode, each member commenting on the others' ideas, while Waldorff lays out a guiding thread. "Skyliner" features the quintet in one of its most melodic moments, all swinging through Waldorff's elliptically composed lines, with Yahel, McCaslin and Waldorff chasing each others' solos. Afterburn ends with Wikan's "Man In The Black Hat," whose understated drumming cleverly frames the group interplay, emphasizing the piece's dramatic aspect.
Personnel: Torben Waldorff: guitar; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Sam Yahel: piano, Fender Rhodes, organ; Matt Clohesy: bass; Jon Wikan: drums.