“This isn’t about reproducing an original, it’s much more like a translation. When I absorb and adapt influences and when I write, I follow my own path – and that allows me to be myself. It’s a process from which something new and contemporary can emerge.” This is how Wolfgang Haffner describes the artistic approach in his “Kind of...” album trilogy, all of which have the unmistakable Haffner sound running right through them. After a first adventure in cool jazz, and then a search for musical traditions in Spain, his new destination is Buenos Aires: “From the moment Siggi Loch suggested tango as my third point of departure, I didn’t need any more convincing. Rhythm is the essence of tango, plus catchy melodies which can then be developed – and there’s so much emotion in it too.”
“Kind of Tango” is indeed a kaleidoscope of shifting emotions. Haffner’s conception of tango has drama and propulsion in it, but also melancholy and longing, with room for frenetic outbursts too. All this is unified by his inimitable groove and feel that commentators have called “an absolute dream”, “magical” and “profoundly relaxed”. Alongside trusted co-protagonists Christopher Dell and Lars Danielsson, he has two guests with him who defy all the clichés associated with tango: guitarist Ulf Wakenius cut his teeth musically in Oscar Peterson’s band, and his Swedish heritage always shines through in his playing. Vincent Peirani is one of the leading innovators on the accordion, and he finds new ways to define the instrument’s role in the tango. Young pianist Simon Oslender is making a first appearance with the band.
Jazz and tango find a natural yet constantly shifting equilibrium – to be heard particularly effectively on “Close Your Eyes And Listen” by Astor Piazzolla. In addition to compositions by Haffner himself and by his band members, pieces by the celebrated Argentinian bandoneon player and composer are the focal point of the album. Piazzolla’s innovations with the tango, such as bringing jazz into it, date from around 1955. Haffner and the tango seem perfectly matched to each other. Tango is no longer a fixed style nowadays, it is above all an attitude to playing and an attitude to life. Wolfgang Haffner’s approach to tango is both authentic and new. It is his and his alone. And it is irresistible.