Torben Waldorff: Wah-Wah (2012)
Danish guitarist Torben Waldorff's sixth album as a leader is a collection of elegant, subtle and intensely melodic compositions that simultaneously sound innovative and accessible. Wah-Wah is also his first without a saxophonist, leaving him alone in the frontline. His, long and satisfying solos are often tinted in muted colors as his intricate improvisations remain within the melodies' frameworks.
His tasteful, complex and intimate sound on the opener, "Circle and Up," showcases his virtuosity without flaunting it. Pianist Gary Versace's sparse and contemplative playing enhances Waldorff's lyricism endowing the tune with a laidback, suave feel.
Versace, who was named a rising star on the accordion by Downbeat Magazine's 2012 Critics Poll, brings almost all his arsenal of keyboards (minus the squeezebox) to this session. A veteran of guitar-led ensembles, his greasy organ adds an earthy groove to the soulful "Poolside." Matched with Waldorff's deep blue guitar lines, their partnership is not confined to just creating a catchy vamp; they also weave together an intelligent and intricate narrative poem.
In contrast, Waldorff's long and resonating lines on the fusion-ish "Fat#2" slowly build up into a blistering solo that fades into the climax of Jon Wikan's rapid-fire, drum-driven restatement of the theme. A long time collaborator, Wikan is a very sensitive percussionist as evidenced on "Cutoff (The Eleventh Bar)," as bright and sparkling tones keeping things moving along on this romantic outing. The modal ballad also features acoustic bassist Matt Clohesy's cultivated and elegiac ad-lib work.
Another one of Waldorff's established band mates, Clohesy is equally adept on the electric version of his instrument, as he demonstrates with virtuosic, complex embellishments on the rock-inspired "Evac," which accentuates the disc's delightful and electrifying harmonies, as bassist and guitarist interact with Versace's funky Fender Rhodes.
Far from a groundbreaker, this sophisticated and captivating record should, nevertheless, earn Waldorff wider recognition, especially in North America.
Track Listing: Circle and Up; You Here; Ginga; Fat#2; Poolside; Evac; Cutoff; Burtsong; Country and Fish.
Personnel: Torben Waldorff: guitar; Gary Versace: piano, Fender Rhodes, organ; Matt Clohesy: bass; Jon Wilkan: drums.