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Wolfgang Haffner: Kind Of Cool

Bruce Lindsay By

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Wolfgang Haffner: Kind Of Cool
Drummer Wolfgang Haffner is one of Germany's most respected and experienced jazz musicians: his 30 year career features recordings with Al Cohn, Joe Pass and Till Bronner as well as numerous albums as leader. On Kind Of Cool he's joined by an excellent line-up of European jazzers, including pianist Jan Lundgren and trombonist Nils Landgren: their mix of classics and Haffner originals is a delight from first note to last.

Haffner and bassist Dan Berglund open "Hippie" (one of the drummer's own compositions) with a relaxed groove that immediately establishes the inaccuracy of the album title: this music isn't kind of cool, this is cool. The tune's title is also rather inaccurate: this melodic number, thanks especially to Jukka Perko's breathy alto sax, is redolent of the '50s—not so much "Hippie" as "Beatnikie."

Haffner contributes two more numbers. "Tantricity" is another relaxed tune that fits neatly into the cool school—Perko's long, fragile, notes give it added grace. The lovely "Remembrance" gives the spotlight to 83-year-old trumpeter Dusko Goykovich (who's played with icons of cool, Miles Davis and Chet Baker). His languid, romantic playing on this tune is some of the finest on the record, although Lundgren's piano solo almost matches Goykovich for emotional depth.

One of the striking things about Kind Of Cool is the presence of so many classic, world famous, tunes. Davis' "So What," Rogers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine," George Gershwin's "Summertime" are all iconic compositions. Most of them, in the right hands, have come to epitomise cool jazz—one reason for Haffner's decision to include them here—and these interpretations carry on that fine tradition. John Lewis' "Django," a Modern Jazz Quartet classic, is given a fresh tonal quality by the sax and trumpet of Perko and Goykovich—"So What" gets its own shift in feel thanks to Christopher Dell's vibes and Berglund's subtle variation on Paul Chambers' bass line, "Summertime" is a beautiful mix of a gently swinging rhythm section and Goykovich's heartfelt muted trumpet.

Two numbers deviate somewhat from the predominant cool sound. {Billy Eckstein}}'s "Piano Man" is a late-night story of lost love ..."that can only be told by the blues." Vocalist Max Mutzke tells the tale with just the right mix of self-pity and melancholy—it's easy to imagine the empty bar-room, the tired bartender and the spurned lover as they listen to Frank Chastenier's piano. Nat Adderley's "One For Daddy O," featuring guest trombonist Landgren, is another blues, but this time swing and good vibes replace Mutzke's melancholy.

So what kind of cool is Kind Of Cool? The good kind, the cool kind—that's the kind of cool to be found on Kind Of Cool.

Track Listing

Hippie; So What; Piano Man; Autumn Leaves; Tantricity; Summertime; My Funny Valentine; One For Daddy O; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Django; Remembrance.

Personnel

Wolfgang Haffner: drums; Dusko Goykovich: trumpet; Jukka Perko: alto saxophone; Christopher Dell: vibraphone; Jan Lundgren: piano; Dan Berglund: bass; Max Mutzke: vocals (3); Frank Chasteniere: piano (3); Christian von Kaphengst: bass (3); Nils Landgren: trombone (8).

Album information

Title: Kind Of Cool | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: ACT Music

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