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Marlboro man of jazz

india Updated: Mar 29, 2010 00:46 IST
Amitava Sanyal

It’s an hour to his opening concert in India and Wolfgang Haffner is as cool as a mountain stream. He sits by the lawns at the back of the Goethe-Institut and puffs on one Marlboro after another. “Music must come from here,” says the 45-year-old drummer, placing his right hand on the pocket of his two-buttons-open shirt. “For me, it doesn’t happen in the head.”

Haffner does not fit the usual portrait of the drummer as a bundle of energy off the stage. First, he’s a cut above the usual. In a career spanning more than three decades, he’s played rock, pop and jazz with Pat Metheny, Bill Evans, Cassandra Wilson, Chaka Khan, Chuck Loeb, Anthony Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Jan Garbarek, Lalo Schifrin.

Second, Haffner says he has been attracted more to “quietude” in recent years and moved into a country house near the south German city of Nuremberg. “I haven’t put on any music at home for almost two years,” he says. “I love the silence. I want to listen within myself.”

The phase has resulted in ‘Round Silence’, an album whose 11 tracks are suffused with the floaty sensuality that “White European jazz” evokes. On this seven-city India tour through March, his second to the country, he has brought his trio —comprising pianist Hubert Nuss and bassist Christian Diener — that has crafted the soul of the album.

One can relate the enhanced session feel (recorded with the help of more instruments) to the sparer on-stage renditions of songs such as ‘Tubes’, a modal track that glides on parallel scales, or ‘The Flow’, in which Nuss’ repetitions set the tempo for the trio’s sophisticated storytelling.

Can the silence-loving composer-drummer work next to the honking horns and screeching tyres on Kasturba Gandhi Marg? “I get musical ideas everywhere. I often write them down, or record a bit on my iPhone. Some ideas stay for decades before becoming a song… Maybe some of this sound will, too.”