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Jonathon Haffner: Life on Wednesday

Dan McClenaghan By

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Alto saxophonist Jonathon Haffner's band on Life on Wednesday puts up a united front, sounding as integrated as the internal workings of a utilitarian, high horsepower industrial machine. But that machine has some grit in its innards on the set's opener, "Time Time," with a rasp of Wayne Krantz' metallic guitar paired with Craig Taborn's Wurlitzer meshing into a dense groove from the dual drums ofJochen Rueckert and Kenny Wollesen, alongside bassist Eivind Opsvik.

Indeed, the hard metal, industrial tinge continues on "Radio One" and its raw, file-on-stainless-steel feeling, with injections of emery paper,-in-the-gear-cog electronics crescendoing into what sounds like a light bulb filament humming three seconds from its mini-nova death.

The searing one-two punch of this pair of tunes opening Haffner's disc—produced by David Binney, and that's surely a factor in this sound's success—gets up and in-your-face with fine, chip-on-the-shoulder ferocity. "New Mexico" takes the music on a tender turn on a plaintive ballad. Krantz' s solo starts out folksy, in Bill Frisell fashion, threatening to go from folksy to feral (without quite going there, this time) before giving way to Taborn's jittery, inward acoustic piano.

"Western Wren (The Bird Call)" rips like an oncoming calamity on a tune as crazy as Ornette Coleman on one of his wilder nights. "Formigas," at nearly eleven minutes the longest piece of the set, crunches with subtle metal-on-metal grind—a car with worn brake shoes—before it whirs and hums, like a piece of cheap electronic equipment heating up in the direction of its short-circuiting demise. Haffner blows into the dystopia with a late night, straight-ahead solo that gains momentum and wails toward a frenzy, the ensemble right there with him like a bunch of toughs swinging into a rumble in the alley.

The attention-grabbing Life on Wednesday doesn't pull any punches. It sounds as if it was made with the intention of giving modern jazz a kick in the pants, and it does just that.

Track Listing: Time Time; Radio One; New Mexico; Wester Wren (The Bird Call); Formigas; Big Wheel; Tuesday Night Danny; Freewheel; Wednesday Night Firsts; Maybe Mexico; New Year.

Personnel: Jonathon Haffner: alto saxophone, clarinet; Craig Taborn: piano, Wurlitzer, electronics; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Eivind Opsvik: upright bass, electric bass; Jochen Rueckert: drums; Kenny Wollesen: drums.

Title: Life on Wednesday | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ArtistShare

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