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For the second in its Signature Edition compilations, dedicated toand selected byits vanguard artists, ACT profiles a guitarist who only became an exclusive artist in 2005, with the release of his homage to pianist Keith JarrettNotes From the Heartbut whose career truly demands retrospection and reevaluation. Unlike Signature Edition 1's fusion guitarist Nguyen Le, who has released nearly a dozen labels for Siggi Loch's German label, Swedish six-stringer Ulf Wakenius has, in addition to a handful of ACT guest appearances, only delivered one other album as a leader for the label, 2008's Love is Reala dedication to pianist Esbjorn Svensson that's as heartfelt as the guitarist's intimate Jarrett tribute.
Both of Wakenius' ACT discs are well represented on Signature Edition 2, in particular the Svensson tribute, which accounts for four of two dozen career-spanning tracks that date back to his 1992 independent debut as a leader, Venture. Culled from that first date, a tender reading of the classic ballad "Estate" demonstrates the guitarist's early Brazilian proclivities, while his funkier, get down with his bad self side shines through on the buoyant, electrified "I Get It 4 U," both of which feature (amongst others) drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist/keyboardist/cellist Lars Danielsson, the latter a constant companion who appears on a full nineteen tracks.
Though none of the work is represented here, Wakenius gained, perhaps, his greatest international acclaim with Oscar Peterson in the pianist's late period trio with Swedish bass legend Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. Listening to Wakenius' painfully beautiful rendition of "Blame It On My Youth," from First Step (IMOGENA, 1993)his soft nylon string guitar and Lars Jansson's synthesized strings recalling Pat Metheny's often-covered "Farmer's Trust"and two tracks culled from his independent 1995 Guitars Unlimited duo with Peter Almqvist, Extraordinairewhere both guitarists consistently navigate the songs' changes with fiery aplombit's little surprise that Wakenius caught Peterson's attention.
As virtuosic as Wakenius can beand his remarkable abilities are in sharp focus on his duet reading of Egberto Gismonti's enduring "Frevo," with Korean expat vocalist Youn Sun Nah (taken from her 2009 ACT release, Voyage)it's his profound lyricism that's at the center of much of Signature Edition . Three tracks from Forever You (Stunt, 2004) focus on the guitarist's profound ability to reach the core of the material he plays. Wakenius isn't a prolific writeronly four tracks are original compositionsbut he's an astute interpreter, culling material from the Great American Songbook, Danielsson, Braziland, of course, Svensson and Jarrett.
It's Jarrett who both opens and closes the set, with Wakenius appropriately dancing on the pianist's set opener of the same name, andon his own, overdubbing two nylon string guitarsdelivering a soft and elegant closer with one of the pianist's most tender compositions, the title track to My Song (ECM, 1978). With Signature Edition 2, Wakenius is positioned as one of contemporary jazz's most imaginative interpreters, an artist who deserves to be on the radar of those who appreciate mainstream guitar with a contemporary edge and unfailingly lyrical bent.
Track Listing: CD1: Dancing; Forever You; Seven Days of Falling; Frevo; Estate; I Get It 4 U; Bibor No Azora; Arirang; Dodge the Dodo; Hymn; Blame It On My Youth. CD2: Elevation of Love; Venture; Mandela; Tequila Sunrise; The Linden; Good Morning Susie Soho; Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa; I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro / Jeg Gik Mig Ud En Sommerdag; When I Fall In Love; Albatross; Bb City; My Song.
Personnel: Ulf Wakenius: guitar; Lars Danielsson: piano (CD1#1, CD1#7), bass (CD1#1, CD1#3, CD1#5, CD1#6, CD1#8-12, CD2#1-3, CD2#5-7, CD2#9-11), cello (CD1#3, CD1#7), effects (CD1#3), synthesizer (CD1#10); Morten Lund: drums (CD1#1-3, CD1#8, CD1#9, CD2#1, CD2#6); Carsten Dahl: piano (CD1#2, CD1#8); Till Brönner: trumpet (CD1#3); Lars Jansson: piano (CD1#3, CD1#9, CD2#1, CD2#11), synthesizer (CD1#12, CD2#9, CD2#11) ; Youn Sun Nah: vocals (CD1#4, CD2#5); Bill Evans: saxophone (CD1#5); Niels Lan Doky: piano (CD1#5, CD2#2); Jack DeJohnette: drums (CD1#5, CD2#2); Eric Wakenius: electric guitar (CD1#9); Raymond Karlsson: drums (CD1#10, CD1#12, CD2#9, CD2#11); Viktoria Tolstoy: vocals (CD1#11, CD2#7); Jacob Karlzon: piano (CD1#11); radio.string.quartet.vienna: strings (CD1#9); Peter Danemo: drums (CD1#11); Randy Brecker: trumpet (CD2#2); Peter Almqvist: guitar (CD2#3, CD2#4, CD2#10); Xavier Desandre-Navarre: percussion (CD2#5); Nils Landgren: trombone (CD2#6, CD2#7); Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: bass (CD2#8); Jonas Johansen: drums (CD2#8); Ove Ingemarsson: saxophone (CD2#11).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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