57

Ulf Wakenius: Vagabond

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Ulf Wakenius: Vagabond Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius is perhaps best known for his ten year stint in pianist Oscar Peterson's trio, following in the footsteps of guitarists Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis and Joe Pass. 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 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, saxophonist Bill Evans (saxophone), trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Niels Lan Doky and bassist Lars Danielsson.

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 on Notes from the Heart (ACT Music, 2005) and the late, sorely lamented Esbjorn Svensson 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 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's lovely "Chorinho" or Attila Zoller'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 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 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 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).

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ACT Music | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Los Guachos V" CD/LP/Track Review Los Guachos V
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 1, 2016
Read "Time on My Hands" CD/LP/Track Review Time on My Hands
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 10, 2016
Read "Ugly Beauty" CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beauty
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 9, 2016
Read "Soundscapes" CD/LP/Track Review Soundscapes
by Jim Olin
Published: July 25, 2016
Read "Goodbye to Language" CD/LP/Track Review Goodbye to Language
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 14, 2016
Read "Love For Sale" CD/LP/Track Review Love For Sale
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!