Jonathon Haffner: New Year
Jonathon Haffner (alto sax)
Life on Wednesday (Cachuma Records 001)
Eivind Opsvik (bass), Jochen Rueckert (drums), Kenny Wollesen (drums).
Composed by Jonathon Haffner.
Recorded: New York, September 2008
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
The review copies of Christmas CDs started arriving in my mailbox around Labor Day, but poor New Year's Day only has this one tribute so far this season. But any smart bandleader would trade five reindeer for one Jonathon Haffner in a heartbeat. Here he works with producer David Binney (who, sad to say, left his horn at home) on a probing project in the company of some like-minded associates. "New Year" starts with a nostalgic theme, more fitting perhaps for throwing out the old rather than bringing in the new, over a medium tempo that always seems on the verge of unwinding into free time. The drums play around the beat rather than push it, and result is an open aural terrain which sets off the soloists all the more vividly. Taborn arpeggiates himself outside conventional harmony, but in a manner more controlled than your typical free solo, then returns to the changes just before passing the baton to Haffner. The bandleader builds his improvisation out of the main melody—a concept that many musicians praise but rarely try to pull off in performance. His conception, which reminds me at times of Jan Garbarek's, emphasizes the power of small phrases, which makes his double-time excursions all the more effective when they arrive. Okay, "New Year" will be too much for those looking for easy-going holiday music, but if your New Year's resolution is to open your ears to less formulaic sounds, this one is worth adding to your playlist.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia