Andreas Öberg is quickly becoming one of the most admired jazz guitar players on the planet, and Six String Evolution, his second CD for Resonance Records, represents yet another remarkable step in his international ascendance.
Don Heckman, writing in the Los Angeles Times, has noted that "Öberg has mastered everything from bebop and swing to bossa nova, Gypsy jazz and fusion, enhanced with youthful, rock-driven vigor. His playing is at times an astonishing display of virtuosity."
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 6, 1978, Öberg sees himself as "a young player with one foot in the tradition and one foot on new grounds." Throughout Six String Evolution, he applies his breathtaking technical facilities and consistently inventive melodic and harmonic sensibilities with consummate taste to a stylistically diverse set of songs. The 11 tunes range from the straight-ahead F-sharp minor blues "Madame Grenouille," written by pianist Geoff Keezer, to the Brazilian jazz of "Meu Bom Velho (My Dear Sir)" and "Amar a Marie (To Love Maria)," the Eastern European-flavored "Archibald's Dance," exquisitely lyrical readings of the Frankie Laine-Carl Fischer composition "We'll Be Together Again" and his own haunting "Dawn Ballad," and fresh treatments of Stevie Wonder's "From the Bottom of My Heart," Geno Vanelli's "Brother to Brother," Michael Sembello's "Maniac" and the funky Les McCann-Eddie Harris classic "Compared to What. " Öberg plays both electric and acoustic guitars and also shows off his scat singing on Poncho Sanchez's Latin jazz tune "Papa Gato."
Produced by George Klabin and Joe Donofrio, Six String Evolution presents the Swedish guitarist in the company of heavyweight players from around the globe. They include pianist Dave Kikoski, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Lewis Nash, singer-saxophonist Darmon Meader, vocalist Filo Machado, bassist Decebal Badila, cymbalom player Marius Preda and vibraharpist John Beasley. Beasley and Bill Cunliffe contributed arrangements to many selections.
Öberg was drawn to music at an early age and took up guitar at eight because, he says, "It was the most interesting instrument to me visually." He made his initial mark, not in music, but as a teenage tennis champion, becoming the top junior player in Sweden. However, when he was about to turn 18 and graduate into the senior player category, he decided to focus instead on guitar playing and was soon performing with some of his country's top jazz musicians.
"I got bored after many years of playing tennis tournaments," he explains. "Music was more exciting to me."
Öberg was initially attracted to the fusion styles of guitarists Lee Ritenour, Robben Ford, Scott Henderson, Mike Stern and Frank Gambale. At 16, while attending a music high school in Stockholm, he developed a liking for such players as George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny and John Scofield. Other favorites include Django Reinhardt, Bireli Lagrene and Toninho Horta, although Benson remains Öberg's main man on guitar.
He further expanded his musical knowledge at Stockholm's Royal Music Academy, from which he graduated. During his four years of study there, he learned such skills as writing big-band arrangements and conducting orchestras, all while playing gigs most evenings.
Öberg has performed over the years with some of the world's great guitar players: Ligrene, Howard Alden, Jimmy Bruno, Larry Coryell, Angelo Debarre, Bruce Forman, John Pisano, Bucky and John Pizzarellli, Stochelo and Jimmy Rosenberg, Dorado Schmitt, Martin Taylor, Frank Vignola and fellow Swede Ulf Wakenius, among them. He also has played with harmonica great Toots Thielemans, organist Joey DeFrancesco, pianist Hank Jones, violinist Florin Niculescu, accordionist Richard Galliano, turntablist DJ Qbert, vocalist Mark Murphy, operatic soprano Barbara Hendricks and numerous others. With his own groups, the guitarist is often joined by pianist Marian Petrescu and drummer Robert Ikiz.
One of the highlights of Öberg's frequent visits to the United States was in June 2005 when he joined Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City during a celebration of the guitar legend's 90th birthday. "It was awesome to meet the godfather of the electric guitar," Öberg reflects. "He was very kind and fun to share the stage with."
In 2005, to meet demand by his rapidly growing legion of guitar-playing admirers, Öberg wrote Gypsy Fire, a 60-page instructional book with accompanying CD. He has made two instructional CD-ROMs -- Jazz Combustion in 2008 and, with Frank Vignola, Duets in 2009 -- and also in 2009 launched the Andreas Öberg Guitar Universe (AGU), an online teaching site open to guitarists at all levels of proficiency.
"Students can study any of the 125 lessons currently on the site, then upload their practice video for me to review," Öberg explains. "It doesn't matter when I am -- on the road or home in Sweden -- the video technology keeps me in touch with my students."
After making three CDs and one DVD in Sweden between 2004 and 2006, Öberg signed with Los Angeles-based Resonance Records and recorded 2008's My Favorite Guitars. The following year he played on the company's Grammy Award-winning Resonance Big Band Pays Tribute to Oscar Peterson CD. And now, with Six String Evolution, he serves up stunning takes on the past, present and future of jazz guitar.
Resonance Records RCD-1015 / May 11, 2010
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