Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Wolf gang

It isn't often that we get treated to a top of the line jazz concert in Bangalore, so by the middle of the second song by The Wolfgang Haffner Group, the crowd was understandably at the edge of their seats. The band comprising Haffner on drums, Sebastian Studnitzky on the trumpet and keyboards, Frank Kuruc on guitars, Christian Diener on bass played a frictionless blend of jazz, rock and electronica ala St.Germain.

Wolfgang Haffner is a consumate drummer, his left hand gentle as a feather, playing quadruplets on the snare, his right hand running amuck on the toms, with the fervour of Keith Moon on a wild night. It is this dichotomy that makes him phenomenal. He was as much at ease playing Billy Cobham type rolls, edging on the complexity of Indian Classical rhythm as he was playing on air almost, gliding his brushes over the cymbals, coaxing the tiniest, sweetest sounds out of them. He was the group's vortex.

Skipping with him with the ease of an upright bass player was Diener, playing a Fender precision of the same colour scheme as that late great bass monster, Jaco Pastorius. The couple of solos that he played showed patient control although he did falter on the faster runs. On the grooves he was impeccable.

Frank Kuruc treated his guitar with kind sensuousness, like he was carassing his love. His effects and minimilistic phrasing ensured that he fit in perfectly in the larger picture. He wasn't flashy by any stretch of the imagination but he was always there to lend the others a helping hand, adding to the fullness of the sound and playing with true emotion.

The funnily surnamed Studnitzky, was equally proficient on Keys and trumpet. Granted he isn't Miles Davis or anywhere thereabouts but like everyone else his addition to the larger picture was tasteful and a joy to hear. He excelled on Wayne Shorter's, In A Silent Way, a song requiring delicacy of touch and oodles of feel.

The fifth member of the band, although invisible also played an integral role. Electronics, especially in a band setting can go horribly wrong. Not with this bunch. Haffner, Studnitzky and Kuruc spun loops, delays, vibratos and straight out boombeats none of which was jarring or out of place. Their timing and use was perfect to accentuate their sound and individual strengths.

I don't know when we are going to get to watch an ensemble of this calibre again but this one has ensured enough manna for my musical soul for some time to come.

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