Wolfgang Haffner ‘Kind of Cool’ (ACT) 4/5

Layout 1“Kind of Cool”, the latest release from Wolfgang Haffner, one of Germany’s most celebrated and respected jazz musicians, is a joy to behold. Far from falling into the potential trap of trying to emulate obvious classics such as Miles Davis’ seminal albums “Kind of Blue” and “Birth of the Cool”, it gives a knowing wink and a smile to such revered recordings, before moving on full steam ahead with its own interpretations of “cool” jazz. Haffner’s band are instrumental in helping the leader produce an album of old and new tunes, combining to create a formidable release. Pianist Jan Lundgren, bassist Dan Berglund, and the incredible 83 year old trumpeter Dusko Goykovich are integral to the relaxed, chilled sound throughout “Kind of Cool”, whilst among others, Jukka Perko on saxophone and Christopher Dell on vibes add their consummate skills to the tunes presented here. The album is made up of a mix of the band leader’s originals and several classics that all work well together as a project.
On first sight of the track listing, I have to admit the thought crossed my mind: Surely not Autumn Leaves again… So the pleasure and surprise was all mine as I fast forwarded to this track to satisfy my curiosity- more out of hope than expectation. Dusko Goykovich gives one of the outstanding performances of the album with his muted trumpet hitting the perfect notes with the perfect tone. A gorgeous version of this classic, if at times over-played tune. EST bassist Dan Berglund leads the way on the iconic Miles Davis number “So What”, which features a groovy feel-good vibes solo from Christopher Dell. Other covers include Gershwin’s “Summertime”, with the breathy alto sax of Jukka Perko adding a lush sincerity as it does throughout the whole album, John Lewis’ “Django”, performed with a bright, effervescent, youthful spirit, and the Rogers and Hart classic “My Funny Valentine” which is performed with an almost melancholic exuberance if ever there were such a thing. Max Mutzke adds his soulful vocal talents on the blues number “Piano Man” and trombonist Nils Landgren features on Nat Adderley’s “One for Daddy O”. There are also three Wolfgang Haffner compositions on the recording, all of which blend in perfectly with the aforementioned classics. “Hippie” is indeed a hip little number, reminiscent of the 50’s cool that this album personifies. “Tantricity” is more modern in outlook, whilst “Remembrance” is a thoughtful introspective tune that closes the album.

“Kind of Cool” proves that jazz can be just as cool today as it was back then. Wolfgang Haffner has drawn on his vast experience and with the help of a great cosmopolitan band of musicians has clearly found the essence of what is, cool jazz.

Mike Gates