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Ulf Wakenius: Confessions of A Vagabond

Ian Patterson By

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Peterson and NHOP died within two years of each other, and Wakenius found himself out of arguably the best guitar job in jazz: "People asked me: 'What are you going to do now?' But the strange thing is that after that I played even more. My career didn't stop. I had ten other different projects. One year after Oscar died I was given the steel guitar you hear on Momento Magico. It was like destiny. This is your new route. This is what you're going to do now. I started to reinvent my style a little. I met Youn [Sun Nah] and the rest you know.

"I was just open to new influences and I didn't want to be an Oscar clone for the rest of my life. I wanted to find my own voice but I was grateful and I still pay homage to him and once in a while incorporate stuff from him. But I don't want to be in a museum band."

New influences, however, can be old in origin, as another song on Momento Magico demonstrates. American singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez' haunting "Sugar Man" comes from his debut album Cold Fact (Sussex, 1970). The inspiring story of Rodriguez's reemergence from years of obscurity is beautifully related in the late Swedish film director Malik Bendjelloul's documentary Searching for Sugarman (2012). Wakenius, like so many others, came to know Rodriguez's music through the film: "When it started I thought, 'Agh! This is just another hype' but when the music started I felt in two seconds, 'Oh shit, this is something! This is the real thing.' When I heard his voice I got goose bumps immediately. These tunes have something special, for me."

There's no chance of any dust settling on Wakenius. Vagabond, the title of Wakenius's 2012 release on ACT Music fairly sums up a lifestyle—a vocation—that keeps him on the road for large chunks of the year. Whether touring as a duo or in a quartet with Sun Nah, or playing with his son, Wakenius is always looking to interpret new material and seek new possibilities from his acoustic guitar.

Busier than ever, the road beckons Wakenius once more. There are upcoming dates across several continents with Sun Nah, in duo and quartet settings, and in Doha with the Doha Symphony Orchestra. There are duo gigs in Italy with French accordion player Vincent Peirani and in Scotland with fellow guitar great Martin Taylor. Then Wakenius leads his quartet of pianist Lars Jansson, drummer Paul Svanberg and double bassist Jesper Bodilsen on a number of dates: "It's an extremely busy year," the guitarist admits. "Basically I'll be in maybe twenty different countries," he laughs. It will be a continuation of the vagabond life."

Nobody could ever accuse Wakenius of resting on his laurels as he pin-balls his way around the planet in any number of different settings. A vagabond existence it may well be, but one marked by many magic moments along the way.

Photo Credit: Lennart Sjöberg

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