Torben Waldorff: American Rock Beauty (2010)
A record's title can be useful in giving a hint of the kind of music that can be found on the album. In the case of guitarist Torben Waldorff, American Rock Beauty reveals itself as a title that brings forth an entire musical poetic conversation.
If the album is like a river flowing in many different directions, the water is the aesthetic and approach of rock. Even though there's no doubt that Waldorff is a jazz guitarist, capable of crafting impressive melodic solos on the spur of the moment, the heart of album isn't in the improvisations, but in the beauty of the tunes themselves.
Sometimes lightly distorted, other times crystalline, Waldorff matches the tone of his instrument to the ambiance of the songs played, and is matched by his cohorts. Keyboardist Jon Cowherd adds his bubbling Fender Rhodes to the funky fusion groove of the opener, "Shark," while he appropriately switches to acoustic piano on the shuffling jazz-country of "Shining Through."
Whether on the ballads or the up-tempo tunes, it is a pleasure to follow the crisp and curling lines of saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who adds depth and sensitivity to ballads like "Lama" and the title track. It's no problem for him to add swing and punch to album's rock dynamics.
The rhythm section of bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jon Wikan ties all the knots together; they fulfill Waldorff's vision of an earthly music that still reaches towards the sky. Under the guitarist's ornamental use of melodic riffs and blocks of chords, they lay a shimmering foundation like the ever-moving frontier of the American landscapes. Although seen through the modern lens of rock, Waldorff's music is rich in its scope and historical heritage. American Rock Beauty is music of great beauty.
Track Listing: Shark; Shining Through; Waves; American Rock Beauty; Late; Lama; Song-Ella; Scape.
Personnel: Torben Waldorff: guitar; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Jon Cowherd: piano, Fender Rhodes, organ; Matt Clohesy: bass; Jon Wikan: drums.