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Wah-Wah-- Torben Waldorff

Danish guitarist Torben Waldorff goes it alone on this his sixth CD, after sharing the front line in stirring fashion on his previous three releases with saxophonist Donny McCaslin. As Waldorff puts it, "For this album, I felt that I needed to take the other melodic instrument--the saxophone--out of the picture. I knew that it was necessary for me to step out and take the full melodic responsibility." Joining the guitarist on Wah-Wah is his rhythm team for many years, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jon Wikan, as well as keyboardist Gary Versace, who follows in the footsteps of Sam Yahel and Jon Cowherd. As usual, Waldorff's diverse compositions are logical and appealing, and lend themselves to improvisation and group interplay of substance and vitality. This is Waldorff's fourth straight recording from fan-funded ArtistShare, and is available exclusively at www.waldorff.com.

"Circle and Up" is introduced by Versace's reflective piano before Waldorff plays the more insistent, rotating theme. His sparkling, driving solo is enhanced by subtle tonal alterations. Versace, Clohesy, and Wikan's supporting efforts are aggressive in a most complementary way. The pianist's improv is hard-nosed and spiky, but also lyrically attractive. Wikan gets to exorcise his demons robustly and at length over a guitar/piano vamp to close out this always stimulating 10-minute opener. Waldorff presents the theme of his insinuating ballad "You Here" with a smattering of distorted sustained notes, and Clohesy's booming bass line meshes especially well with the leader's intricately woven, variegated solo. The bassist's own outing, aided by just Wikan's sparse shadings, is compelling in its own right. Waldorff's motifs, along with those from Versace on Fender Rhodes, seasoned by Wikan's cymbal splashes, all makes for a provocative finish.

The peppery, staccato head of "Ginga" is a fine basis for elaboration, and Waldorff sizzles in his, with surging and tumbling extended lines in a Pat Metheny vein. Versace's convoluted statement on piano is a prime example of his expressive, technically adept artistry. The quartet's ensuing interaction is creative and exciting. The catchy "Fat #2" begins with Waldorff's vamp and Clohesy's electric bass in contrapuntal alliance. Wikan's frisky drumming, Versace's legato organ remarks, and the steadfast Clohesy provide a propulsive launching pad for Waldorff's soaring jazz-rock styled solo. "Poolside" is an alluring melody set to a bossa nova rhythm, and guitar and organ blend harmonically with eloquent grace. Versace's flight is a resonating gem, and Waldorff follows with delicate sensitivity, once again proving his wide-ranging versatility.

The captivating theme of "Evac" alludes to the standard "Like Someone in Love," and is first expanded upon with lyrical flourishes by Versace on Rhodes, and then at length by Waldorff with a more intense, less restrained slant. The guitarist's apparently pre-arranged out chorus gives the piece an entirely different character that elevates it to an even more invigorating level. "Cutoff (The Eleventh Bar)" has a glowing circular melody that is simply stated by Waldorff prior to Clohesy's energetic interlude. Versace on piano uses primarily an emphatic staccato attack during his solo, while Waldorff largely follows his example in his turn prior to restating the distinctive theme.

Waldorff develops the somewhat lullaby-like "Burtsong" while Versace plays odd Wurlitzer-sounding effects on the organ. Clohesy and Wikan contribute to the off-kilter atmosphere with erratic interjections as the guitarist advances his gushing, short but sweet improv. Versace then comes to the forefront as the quartet intermingles playfully, until Waldorff offers a recap of yet another one of his memorable tunes. The slow, enticing "Country and Fish" is a down home blues, and it receives a real deal guitar/organ treatment, both soulful and mesmerizing. Waldorff's solo is an instant classic, as he displays his blues chops and harmonic ingenuity. Versace again utilizes a whistling, high-pitched sonority in his brief but absorbing organ spot (by now almost a trademark of his style on that instrument). Waldorff next produces an equally succinct and lucid summation for this perfectly realized closing track.

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Scott Albin