By Josef Woodard | Published September 2022
German drummer Wolfgang Haffner makes no bones about his retro instincts, drawing on his strengths as leader-composer-dreamer to summon up an old-schooled, funk-basted jazz sound without apology. His Dream Band, the range and power of which is well captured on this two-disc live set from 2021, is clearly a talent-fortified unit, with Americans Randy Brecker and saxist Bill Evans and multiple personality Swede Nils Landgren up front.
Haffner penned most of the 20 tunes here, with Evans’ “Soulbop” and Brecker’s “The Dipshit” also in the mix. Cover-wise, Haffner is a careful curator, logically tapping the soul-jazz legacy of Nat Adderley’s “Walk Tall” and “Sweet Emma.” Landgren puts in an aptly understated vocal on Brenda Russell’s pop-soul tune “Get Here.” Miles Davis’ simple, iconic riff-based “Jean Pierre” is slyly alluded to. Other historical points of reference filter through the Dream Band’s agenda, almost as if the operative dream is a nostalgic reverie for fusion-esque sounds of old. “Star” revolves around a deceptively simple theme and dynamically morphing fast-city groove bowing to Joe Zawinul’s influence. Things slide over into a passage nodding to In A Silent Way, albeit more in a slick way than with the original’s organic looseness. Chick Corea’s “Spain” and other Spanish-tinged fusion manners figure into Haffner’s “Tres Hermanos,” a fine showcase for bassist Thomas Stieger.
The varied groove-fest comes to a lovely sigh of a finale, with Haffner’s semi-lullaby “Silent Way,” in his silent way.
Live In Concert: Drums Ahead; Soulbop; New Life; Walk Tall; Bones From The Ground; Dando Vueltas; Tubes; Star; Sweet Emma; The Dipshit; You Dig; Get Here; Tres Hermanos; Q; Leo; Keep Going; Simple Life; The Real Thing; Jean Pierre; Silent Way. (1:41:50)
Personnel: Wolfgang Haffner, drums; Randy Brecker, trumpet; Nils Landgren, trombone, vocals; Bill Evans, saxophone, vocals, piano; Christopher Dell, vibraphone; Simon Oslender, keyboards, piano; Thomas Stieger, bass.
Ordering Info: actmusic.com