Wakenius is essentially a melodic player. In his youth he was influenced above all by blues and rock & roll guitarist – Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Johnny Winter were his heroes – until he heard John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra; “McLaughlin’s guitar playing reminded me of Coltrane – complete ecstasy. Crazy!” Since then he has been deluged with work as a much-sought after studio musician, along with being involved in a steady stream of music projects ranging from Brazilian to funk.
Two and a half years ago Wakenius went back to his roots in a very special way – a “melodic crusade” as he jokingly called it. He took on the music of Keith Jarrett for his ACT debut album Notes From The Heart (ACT 9435-2). With finesse and a mind towards reduction, he limited himself to a trio, playing acoustic guitar exclusively. A lot of people didn’t trust his choices. However not only did Wakenius ingeniously transfer piano music to guitar, he reinvented his own original style.
In considering Wakenius’ new project, Love Is Real, one inevitably comes back to the Jarrett recording. Once again bassist Lars Danielsson and drummer Morten Lund build the framework for the rhythm section, this time complemented by Lars Jansson on piano. Once again Wakenius devotes himself to the music of a particular pianist; and again it’s a melody-driven player who fits a very particular image: his fellow countryman Esbjörn Svensson. Yet this time Wakenius has chosen a completely different interpretation method than on the Jarrett album. This time he doesn’t condense, he spreads out Svensson’s compact sound, using all the whiles of his art. To begin with, this time he uses various guitars. Alongside the tried and true acoustic Godin guitar with its nylon strings both steel and electric guitar are brought into play. The title track “Love Is Real” best demonstrates how he brings out the particular characteristics of a piece: lithe, streamlined guitar lines, drums played lightly with brushes; it is a study in musical economy that moves in the direction of country and folk.
A short digression: this is the sixth version of Svensson’s “Believe, Beleft, Below” that has appeared on an ACT album. Josh Haden, Viktoria Tolstoy, Ida Sand, Heinz Sauer, and Michael Wollny have already ventured to play this heart-rending ballad. Wakenius has chosen the title that was used on the vocal version, “Love Is Real”, for his amazing rendition.
For Wakenius, the enormous expressive possibilities that the various guitars offer are not enough: on five compositions the radio.string.quartet.vienna expands and lends contrast to the guitar’s melodic lead. This is not your typical classical string ensemble. The group’s name already vouches for that: the radio.string.quartet.vienna has developed a completely original sound, and with their celebrated ACT debut album they have been catapulted to one of the break-through groups of 2007. On Love Is Real they deliver an exciting contrast to Wakenius’ spare lines. Sometimes, as in “Dodge the Dodo”, they transform a piece into up-tempo with their rhythmic drive, or as in “Tuesday Wonderland” they capture the acerbic, raw, and skewed twists and turns of Svensson’s hallucinatory, darker side. By the way, Svensson contributes one of the string arrangements.
The last complement to this downpour of tonal colours comes from the horns – and what horns! Paolo Fresu adds his typical melancholy Mediterranean trumpet play to “Viaticum”. His colleague Till Brönner’s accustomed coolness transforms what was a rough and plaintive “Seven Days Of Falling” into a number that reminds one of the Prince of Cool, Miles Davis. And Nils Landgren’s trombone lends a final dash of funk to Wakenius bouncy “Good Morning Susie Soho”.
German Release Date: April 25, 2008
Love Is Real – Ulf Wakenius – ACT 9459-2 – LC 07644
• Ulf Wakenius – acoustic nylon guitar, acoustic steel guitar, electric guitar
• Lars Danielsson – acoustic bass, cello, effects
• Lars Jansson – acoustic piano
• Morten Lund – drums, cajon, percussion
• radio.string.quartet.vienna: Special Guests:
• Bernie Mallinger – violin Till Brönner – trumpet on “Seven Days Of Falling”
• Johannes Dickbauer – violin Paolo Fresu – trumpet on “Viaticum”
• Cynthia Liao – viola Nils Landgren – trombone on “Good Morning Susie Soho”
• Asja Valcic – cello Eric Wakenius – electric guitar on “Dodge The Dodo
• 01 Seven Days Of Falling 6:39
• 02 Dodge The Dodo 5:50
• 03 Believe, Beleft, Below (Love Is Real) 4:28
• 04 Tuesday Wonderland 5:20
• 05 Elevation Of Love 5:52
• 06 Pavane “Thoughts Of A Septuagenarian” 6:19
• 07 Good Morning Susie Soho 5:24
• 08 Eighthundred Streets By Feet 6:23
• 09 When God Created The Coffeebreak 6:16
• 10 Shining On You 4:10 11 Viaticum 6:18
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Lars Nilsson at Nilento Studios, Gothenburg, Sweden
Additional string recording by Christoph Burgstaller at Clipwerk Studios, Vienna, Austria
Produced by Ulf Wakenius
Executive Producer: Siegfried Loch