The supremely swinging promise of the German jazz scenery
Personalities need to grow, careers need time and scope to develop.
"I have already put into effect the most different projects, ranging from playing with a bebop combo to performing jazz with a string orchestra," recounts German trumpeter Till Brönner, "but the new album belongs by far among the best recordings I ever did." And the young man with the beautiful sound and a special liking for a stylish appearance has virtually achieved quite a few things. With nonchalant casualness Brönner joined some of the most prominent figures of the international jazz scene. Either he shared a stage with Dave Brubeck, James Moody, or Monty Alexander, or he delved into more complex sounds at the side of Aki Takase, Joachim Kühn, or Ravi Coltrane. Then again, he provided internationally acclaimed singers like Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, and Tony Bennett with sensitive melody lines. Within a dozen years, he developed from a gifted novice in the field of classical music into the supremely swinging promise of the German jazz scenery.
Born in the North Rhine-Westphalian town of Viersen, which hosts an international jazz festival since 1987, first of all nothing was indicating that Brönner would become a jazz trumpeter one day. Even though the family bible lists quite some musicians. As for example Franz Lachner, a paternal ancestor, who had been court organ player at the cathedral of Frankfurt in Richard Wagner's times. But there had been some more church musicians in the family. None of them had been playing trumpet, and jazz was known to the Brönners only by hearsay. So the little boy started on the recorder to find out if he had some talent. As a matter of fact, he got enthusiastic about music. But he did not really like the recorder. Trumpets seemed to be more impressive and were sounding more spirited, more fiery as well. When the nine-year-old Till received his first golden gleaming instrument as a present on his first Communion, he had already become inflamed with passion for music that much, he did not only complete his classical instructions but soon also took regularly part in talent contests.
Brönner was successful and won, according to his respective condition of the day, various contests like the renowned "Jugend musiziert" (Youth performs). With the standardization of taste of the classical music scene he remained unsatisfied though. "At that time, all the young trumpet players wanted to sound like Maurice Andr?. That wasn't enough for me," he recalls the turning point of his career. When, as a fifteen-year-old youngster, he took part in the "Jugend jazzt" contest, he did it more out of his frustration than out of inclination - and ended up holding the winner's trophy in his hands. From then on, things were looking up. He became the youngest member of Peter Herbolzheimer's Bundesjazzorchester (Federal Jazz Orchestra), studied trumpet at the Cologne College of Music, was convincing at a rehearsal for the RIAS-Tanzorchester, and thus he got with only twenty years a desirable contract as a big band musician with Horst Jankowski's Berlin-based orchestra.
In 1993, Brönner made his debut as a bandleader for Minor Music with the recording "Generations Of Jazz" which, among others, featured bass legend Ray Brown and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The album was followed by "My Secret Love" (1995) and "German Songs" (1996), the latter featuring combination of a large string orchestra, a jazz quartet, and some unconventional reworkings of hits dating from the old UFA cinema days. This project attracted attention far beyond the usual jazz public since it did not pick up the repertoire and standard styles of the fathers but the almost forgotten tunes of the grandfathers which, rejuvenated by some fresh arrangements, would give exeptionally vital impulses to the contemporary music scene. It was particularly this receptiveness to original musical ideas which made him stand out against his young competitors, and it also distinguished Brönner as an important, innovative artist on the contemporary scene. On the following recording "Midnight" (1997), which was released by BMG, he stepped into the entertaining, groovy world of jazz-fusion with the likes of drummer Dennis Chambers, bassist Anthony Jackson, and saxophonist Mike Brecker.
On his fifth album to date and the first one for Verve Records, Brönner presents himself in yet another musical context. With velvety elegance, a slightly lascivious touch, and his pithy muted trumpet he dives into the seas of tasteful ballads and atmospheric, associative jazz soundscapes. Comparisons with Chet baker come easily to mind, less because of the choice of songs but because of the adroit reduction of the music to the lyrical essence and because of Brönner's leanings to pick up the microphone as a singer. As a composer he contributes four originals: "What Stays", "Our Game", "We Fly Around The World", and "Time Will Tell". The rest are classics like "Here's That Rainy Day", "Brazil", or "Ich hab' noch einen Koffer in Berlin". The new album was recorded in May, 1998 in the Atavar Studios in New York in order to catch the spirit of the special, inspiring atmosphere of the capital of jazz.
In the meantime Brönner has become a master of musical intimicy and soft, subtle, smooth tones. With his mute trumpet and flugelhorn he affectionately creates a cosmos of fragile melodies. Self-confidently he displays the individual, resonantly strong sound he developed on his instruments. He plays cool but not subdued, virtuoso but not conceited, with sentiment but not with false emotionalism. And he gets supremely good support from his international quartet of sidemen.
Pianist Frank Chastenier accomapanied him already on "Generations Of Jazz". The New York- based guitarist and Berklee alumnus Chuck Loeb is well-known far beyond the US studio scene and his ever-growing fan base. As a soloist in the style of Pat Metheny, but also as an inspired, versatile accompanist and arranger, he belongs to the most important as well as most successful representatives of "contemporary smooth jazz" since the beginning of the 90s. Wolfgang Haffner, who is hailing from Nuremburg, has, besides being the regular drummer of Klaus Doldinger's Passport, worked with artists as diverse as jazz trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, singer Chaka Khan, or the premier German rap group called Die Fantastischen Vier. Together with acoustic bass player Tim Lefebvre he rounds the songs off with attentive precision and subtle swing to a bewitching, tremendous listening experience. Even though this album at first gives the impression of a quiet and unspectacular recording, the music is daring. Without any doubt, "Of Love" will further consolidate Brönner's reputation as an outstanding instrumentalist, sensitive interpreter, and original musical personality.