Portrait Franz Hautzinger: What’s This Jazz Today?, Vienna Porgy & Bess, 12 September 2012

Here was a quintessentially Viennese event: a three-night residency at the city’s premier jazz club, dedicated to the formidable improvising trumpeter and card-carrying member of the Reductionist school, Franz Hautzinger. The list of people joining Hautzinger for these gigs read like a who’s who of the Vienna free jazz/avant/improv nexus: Siewert, Gustafsson, Stangl, dieb13, Brandlmayr, Quehenberger (what, no Didi Kern?). Although I was previously unfamiliar with Hautzinger’s work, the presence of the aforementioned Siewert and Gustafsson was more than enough to tempt me out for the second of the three evenings, quixotically billed as What’s This Jazz Today?

For the first set, Hautzinger was joined by Martin Siewert on guitar and devices, dieb13 on turntables and Martin Brandlmayr on drums. This was a long, slow unfolding which I found heavy going for the most part. Hautzinger’s trumpet had a dry, arid quality which was never quite dispelled by dieb13’s ghostly flickers or Brandlmayer’s spare, precise drumming. Siewert, as ever, was the real star, outshining the trumpeter with his shapeshifting tabletop guitar. The group’s quiet and patient search for the ineffable finally paid off towards the end of the set, as the minimalist gestures gave way to a bracing and squally finish.

All things considered, it was something of a relief when Mats Gustafsson arrived after the interval, flanked centre stage by Hautzinger and surrounded by Georg Graewe on piano, Peter Herbert on bass, Wolfgang Reisinger on drums and Konfrontationen guru Hans Falb on the decks. The saxophonist stamped his authority on proceedings from the outset, his corrosive flights on baritone and tenor sax backed by the considerable heft of the rhythm section. Hautzinger responded with a deal more fire than he had shown in the first set, while I found myself consistently drawn to Graewe’s maze-like and intricate pianistics. It was an unfortunate moment when Falb, whose whimsical take on turntablism contrasted unfavourably with the more sombre approach of dieb13, chose to undermine a particularly knotty Graewe solo with an irritating bout of ‘playful’ turntable trickiness. A mixed evening, then, enlivened by the rare intervention of a real live heckler at the end.

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