This album expands composer and drummer Wolfgang Haffner’s Kind of… series with its best-integrated offering. Not only because the rapport he shares with bassist Lars Danielsson and pianist Simon Oslender is as involuntary as breathing, but also because the music spinning out from that core trio is reflective of a bandleader who understands that comfort is born of experience.
Whether in the understated groove of “La Cumparsita,” the inward glance of “Respiro” or the somber farewell of “Recuerdos,” Haffner figures that every dance doesn’t need to be a competition. And he’s not afraid to let melodies awaken slowly, as on “El Gato.” But the tango is best drawn between a leap and a crawl, and the brilliance of Haffner’s tempi lie in that balance. Quintessential in both concept and execution is his handling of Astor Piazzolla. By wrapping the familiar strains of “Libertango” in mystery and the lesser-known neorealism of “Chiquilín de Bachín” in the warmth of an open fire, he brings out a blush of sanctity from the secular. What we end up with, then, is a welcoming examination of tango: something personal, fresh and unforced.
(This review originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of DownBeat magazine.)