For 10 years with the late Oscar Peterson, Ulf Wakenius occupied the most prestigious sideman guitarist's chair in mainstream jazz. His predecessors included Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis and Joe Pass, which gives a pretty fair indication of what Peterson thought of him. There was also a general critical consensus that he was a more than worthy successor to those fretboard giants. Under his own name, while still retained by Peterson, Wakenius made albums that reflected more fusion-oriented interests. These found him exploring similar territory to Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, and it is that side of his playing that is reflected on his latest CD for the German ACT label (actmusic.com), Love is Real. Wakenius must have had plenty of time to reflect on the finer points of jazz piano on the Peterson gig. His last release, also on ACT, Notes From the Heart, reworked 11 Keith Jarrett compositions for a guitar-led trio completed by Lars Danielsson on double bass and Morten Lund on drums, with Danielsson also contributing some cello and piano parts. With Love is Real, Wakenius turns his attention to the music of pianist and fellow Swede Esbjorn Svensson, leader of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, generally referred to as EST. One of a relatively small number of Scandinavian jazz artists to have achieved not only international critical acclaim but also healthy album sales, Svensson writes strong melodies and is, in many ways, an obvious choice for a tribute. Danielsson and Lund are back, but whereas Notes used sparse instrumentation and an all-acoustic sonic palette, this time Wakenius has expanded the group to include pianist Lars Jansson, added a string quartet for several tunes, and occasionally picks up an electric guitar, too. None of the intimate rapport of the earlier trio set has been lost however, and Wakenius is clearly comfortable with Jansson who played keyboard on his First Step CD in 1992. There are guest appearances as well, from trumpeters Till Bronner and Paolo Fresu, trombonist Nils Landgren, and Wakenius' son Eric, also a guitarist, who contributes a coda to Dodge the Dodo, a rock-influenced track that originally appeared on EST's From Gagarin's Point of View in 1998, and which has become one of that trio's signature pieces. The Radio.String.Quartet.Vienna players are well deployed on this version of the tune, imparting a sense of nagging urgency to the groove, and Wakenius junior plays a bravura solo over the fade-out which suggests that his father may have had to listen to his fair share of Steve Vai and Yingwie Malmsteen during the boy's adolescence. Landgren's trombone solo on Good Morning Susie Soho reflects both his taste for bluesy funk and his intimate familiarity with Svensson's music. The pianist has played in the Landgren Funk Unit, and the two players have also recorded Scandinavian folk-based duets. Valuable though the guest contributions to this album are, however, it's quite rightly Wakenius' guitar that's the dominant voice. He plays some electric and some steel-strung acoustic parts - the latter most notably on Good Morning Susie Soho - but mostly uses a nylon-strung electro-acoustic instrument. His playing throughout is thoughtful, lyrical, and tinged with a certain minor-key melancholy. There are occasional bursts of technical virtuosity, but his playing is never showy, and he treats the compositions with the utmost respect. It's a well-balanced album which should appeal to fans of Wakenius and EST. Svensson's tunes have been previously covered by other artists, particularly Believe, Bereft, Below (Love is Real), which has been sensitively rearranged here for just guitar, bass and drums, but these 11 selections are a revelatory cross section of the work of a jazz composer who is both important and accessible. I wrote in this column a few weeks back about Chris Botti's Italia album. There is an opportunity this week to hear him perform live, but you will have to travel to Macau. He appears on Tuesday at 8pm at the Macau Cultural Centre and tickets priced at HK$80, HK$150, HK$200 and HK$250 are available from macauticket.com. The concert is billed as A Date With Jazz.