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Ulf Wakenius: Vagabond (2012)

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Ulf Wakenius: Vagabond How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius is perhaps best known for his ten year stint in pianist Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
's trio, following in the footsteps of guitarists Barney Kessel
Barney Kessel
Barney Kessel
1923 - 2004
guitar, electric
, Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
1921 - 2010
guitar
and Joe Pass
Joe Pass
Joe Pass
1929 - 1994
guitar
. Wakenius clocked up enough road miles with Peterson to have traveled to the moon and back, and he also toured extensively and recorded with bassists Ray Brown
Ray Brown
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
bass, acoustic
and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. These heavyweight associations have tended to overshadow his own projects as leader, which date back more than two decades to his group with drummer Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
, saxophonist Bill Evans (saxophone)
Bill Evans (saxophone)
Bill Evans (saxophone)
b.1958
saxophone
, trumpeter Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, pianist Niels Lan Doky
Niels Lan Doky
Niels Lan Doky
b.1963
piano
and bassist Lars Danielsson
Lars Danielsson
Lars Danielsson
b.1958
bass
.

Since signing to ACT Music in the mid-2000s, Wakenius has paid singular tribute to two of the most influential pianists of the last forty years, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
on Notes from the Heart (ACT Music, 2005) and the late, sorely lamented Esbjorn Svensson
Esbjorn Svensson
Esbjorn Svensson
1964 - 2008
piano
on Love is Real (ACT Music, 2008). In the process, Wakenius has demonstrated his proclivity for interpreting a tune with originality and respect. The acoustic Vagabond is a halfway house between original material and covers, and explores a wide range of stylistic and emotional terrain. English guitarist John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
b.1942
guitar
once wrote that Wakenius sounded as if he was born with a guitar in his hands, and in truth he has never sounded better.

Wakenius' virtuosity is a given, though his lightening fast runs which pepper the set could slacken the jaws of the most jaded guitar aficionados. However, even his most fluid lines, on pianist Lyle Mays
Lyle Mays
Lyle Mays
b.1953
keyboard
's lovely "Chorinho" or Attila Zoller
Attila Zoller
Attila Zoller
1927 - 1998
guitar
's infectious "Birds and Bees, (a duet with son Eric), have tremendous melodic narrative. Wakenius demonstrates subtlety and lyricism on a beautiful interpretation of Jarrett's "Encore" and on the self-penned "Song for Japan," where damped strings create the sound of a Japanese lute, on this moving ode.

Wakenius conjures the troubled Middle East on the dramatic "Breakfast in Baghdad." Danielsson's bass brings powerful counterpoint to the guitarist's darting lines, while accordionist Vincent Peirani reprises the role singer Youn Sun Nah
Youn Sun Nah
Youn Sun Nah

vocalist
performed with Wakenius on her own Same Girl (ACT, 2010). Wakenius and Nah have formed a striking partnership in recent years and she lends her seductive vocals to a beautifully simple but affecting take on The Police classic "Message in a Bottle," with guitarist Nguyen Le
Nguyen Le
Nguyen Le
b.1959
guitar
adding wavy, singing lines. Peirani and Danielsson make significant contributions throughout; the accordionist weaves delightful French, Argentinean and Arab textures—his playing on the dramatic title track is exceptional— while the bassist lends two striking compositions in the form of the blues-tinged nostalgia of "Psalmen" and the gentle, Iberian-flavored "Praying."

Wakenius pays personal tribute to saxophonist Jim Pepper
Jim Pepper
Jim Pepper
1941 - 1992
sax, tenor
on "Witchi-Tai-To," complete with memorable Native American chants. Wakenius' star shines brightly on these 11 cuts, though it is the space he allows for all the voices on Vagabond which ultimately makes it such a resounding success. Uniformly strong compositions and wonderful, empathetic playing from all mark this recording out as one of the guitarist's finest efforts. One more time to the moon and back, please.


Track Listing: Vagabond; Message in a Bottle; Bretagne; Psalmen; Breakfast in Baghdad; Song for Japan; Birds and Bees; Praying; Chorinho; Witchi-Tai-To; Encore.

Personnel: Ulf Wakenius: acoustic guitars, oud, chant; Vincent Peirani: accordion, accordina, voice; Lars Danielsson: bass, cello; Eric Wakenius: acoustic steel string guitar; Michael Dahlvid: darbuka, cajon; Youn Sun Nah: vocals (2); Nguyen Le: electric guitar (2).

Record Label: ACT Music

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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