Just when I thought I had heard some of the finest guitar playing of the year with each artist seemingly trying to out play the other, along comes Denmark native Torben Waldorff and I find myself reexamining my "best of" list to be sure he is included.
Joined with the "A" list talent including Gary Versace on piano, rhodes and organ, Matt Clohesy on bass and Jon Wilkan on drums and the end result is a cutting edge 4tet with plenty of muscle, a high octane tour de force. Waldorff maintains a strong lyrical sense of self and perhaps one of THE most unique and engaging sounds of any guitarist this year. Waldorff attacks the guitar while never going over the self indulgent cliff. A distinct angular edge to single note runs with his tone ringing out with the precision of a surgeon, Waldorff moves to the head of the pack quickly. A compelling zen like approach from all participants with a spatial less is more and no notes wasted collective that gives up something new with each subsequent spin of the disc. Versace is a most valuable addition especially with his harmonic richness on rhodes and organ. Clohesy and Wilkan round out as solid a rhythm section as one may hear and the collective 4tet takes that next evolutionary step in the art of swing and modern jazz.
"Evac" is a delightful harmonic exploratory, shifting meter and a colorful retro vibe of Versace's work on fender rhodes while Waldorff stretches out and develops his own lyrical voice. So...who does he sound like? Torben Waldorff of course but to share a general frame of reference one might think Pat Martino meets John Scofield on their way to a Pat Metheny show, yet it is Waldorff's ability to transform possible influences into a most unique and intriguing presentation. Waldorff's previous releases also featured a saxophone but not here. Wah-Wah has Waldorff assuming melodic control while creating a deceptively subtle dynamic tension or grit that gives his playing that extra bite. There is plenty of variety here with "Country and Fish" where the intensity is dialed down to make room for a more organic country blues vibe. "Poolside" goes to a full on bossa nova groove while "Circle and Up" is a pure straight ahead jazz smoker. Communication would seem to be the bench mark for success as each member not only know his role but weaves their voice in and around Waldorff, they play "with" him not "behind" him - huge difference. Clohesy's skills as a lyrical bassist are in full effect and drummer Wikan literally owns the pocket on this release.
Six string aficionados should flock to Wah-Wah. Much like John Abercrombie was the modern evolution of Jim Hall, Torben Waldorff is pushing the music forward his own way.
Waldorff's new project is made possible by Artistshare and available exclusively at www.waldorff.com
Tracks: Circle and Up; You Here; Ginga; Fat #2; Poolside; Evac; Cutoff (The Eleventh Bar); Burtsong; Country and Fish (To Play Us Out).
Personnel: Torben Waldorff: guitar; Gary Versace: piano, fender rhodes, and organ; Matt Clohesy: bass, electric and acoustic; Jon Wilkan: drums.