After garnering international critical acclaim for his previous ArtistShare albums, Afterburn and Brilliance, guitarist Torben Waldorff returned with another varied and potent set of songs on American Rock Beauty (ArtistShare).
On American Rock Beauty, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Matt Clohesy, and drummer Jon Wikan join leader Waldorff once again. Helping to take the music to a new level of intensity is new man onboard, pianist Jon Cowherd (Brian Blade Fellowship, Rosanne Cash). Together they make what critic Doug Ramsey, writing about their previous CD Afterburn, calls “...expansive jazz of the kind that thrives in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and is spreading around the world. Waldorff, McCaslin and Yahel are leaders among the articulate standard bearers of the movement.”
Critics have praised Waldorff’s previous efforts for their spirit, balance, and the telepathic understanding among band members. These same qualities are all present on American Rock Beauty, as the quintet leads the listener through a sophisticated blend of styles and beats. There is range of musical atmospheres at play on the album, but they all become one in the hands of these dynamic musicians.
Waldorff worked on the new music for the band throughout 2008-2009. “The tunes are all written from a extremely intuitive place,” he says. “I usually conceived them in minutes. It has been as though the songs and the melodies were hanging there right above me all the time ” I just had to get myself to a place where I was ready to just reach out and pull them in. Then they become creations, almost like babies. All are really songs, very vocal in their character. There is a variation of vibes and styles in the songs, but they all draw on the same melodic undercurrent, they are all part of the same work.”
The program is diverse. The group weaves intricate harmonies, goes rock, charges through compelling unison lines, paints haunting melodies, and engages in blistering virtuosic exchanges. “Shark” is a rousing jazz-rock fusion tune, played with fire and intelligence. “Shining Through” has a country-gospel flavor that features a lyrical Waldorff solo that almost seems like one long improvised song. The title track is a heart-rending ballad full of longing and sadness. “Song-Ella” has a gorgeous Brazilian lilt. Other compositions, like “Waves” and “Late” (which features a towering solo from McCaslin) are intricate, tightly constructed pieces that are beyond easy categorization.
..However, there is an underlying unity to the album, despite the variety of material. “There is a theme of beauty, sorrow, and happiness running through the record,” Waldorff continues. “There is a story of real life in here”a print or an image of human reality and truth. Born in Denmark, Torben Waldorff attended Berklee College of Music studying with Herb Pomeroy and Charlie Banacos and gigging the Boston clubs.