Monday, 8 June 2009

Till Brönner...

Been busy for the last 10 days with new reviews - rather a lot of them - for Jazz Journal. No longer Jazz Journal International, strap line "The World's Greatest Jazz Magazine - 62nd year of Publication", the June issue of the magazine nevertheless looks good and shows real promise. Some of the changes to layout made by the editor (and a lot more subtle little tweaks to come) make me confident that within 6 months or so it'll have been dragged into this century without losing any of its integrity and all the stronger for it.

Time to continue mining the Jazz Review archives now, this time with a review of a disc by Till Brönner. I'm no great fan, but he's far from repugnant. As one of the editor's wild card picks in the last batch was his latest disc "Rio", it seems like a good time to post this. There was a lot of other good stuff in the envelope - Bobo Stenson & Plunge, Jon Hassell, Marc Sinan/Julia Hülsmann, Air, Roberto Fonseca, Phillip Johnsotn and Seb Pipe if you must know - and all will be published here in due course and after a respectful interval.

More regular updates to follow, along with improved indexing/tagging of the blog too, I hope...

Verve Records (06025 1708231)

Bumpin’; This Guy’s In Love With You; Love Theme From Chinatown; In My Secret Life; The Peacocks; I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry; Subrosa; Pra Ditzer Adeus; It Never Entered My Mind; River Man; Danny Boy; A Distant Episode; I’ll Never Fall In Love Again; Tarde.

Till Brönner (t/voc); Larry Goldings (p/ky); Gary Foster (as); Dean Parks (g); David Piltch (b); Jay Bellerose (d), Carla Bruni (voc on 4); Madeleine Peyroux (voc on 6); Luciana Souza (voc on 8).
No recording date.

German singer/trumpeter Till Brönner has been occupying the same jazz-pop hinterland as Madeleine Peyroux, Jamie Cullum and Diana Krall for over a decade now. Starting his musical life in thrall to be-bop, Brönner went on to play with Horst Jankowski’s Big Band before cutting a hard bop date that featured the great Ray Brown on bass. It was perhaps his discovery of Chet Baker in the late ‘90s that set him on the course that has led him to Oceana. Brönner now takes his music back to a more traditional jazz-based sound than previous ‘urban’ projects, tempos all falling at well below medium and decidedly ‘after dark’. A string of ‘star’ cameos from Peyroux, model Carla Bruni and Luciana Souza don’t interrupt the mood or flow of what is a masterfully produced ‘mood’ piece from Larry Klein.

Brönner’s trumpet, often harmon-muted, is warm and breathy, his lines displaying a great economy that betray some very well thought out phrasing. The melodic building blocks of each piece are simplicity its self. Take the hypnotic blues vamp that the opening instrumental ‘Bumpin’ is built on, for example. Brönner’s singing voice is rich and engaging, even if his enunciation of English is less than perfect, and the nearest he comes to dropping a clanger is the rather too saccharine and kitsch version of Bacharach’s ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, which gatecrashes the after hours feel by moving up-tempo.

A delicious reading of Nick Drake’s ‘River Man’ more than makes up for this lapse, and elsewhere Brönner carves some very satisfying instrumentals, the best being ‘Love Theme From Chinatown’ (with a liquid solo from Foster that Art Pepper would have been proud of), Jimmy Rowles’ ‘The Peacocks’, and the slightly country hued ‘A Distant Episode’. Larry Goldings is understated but ‘just so’ throughout, delivering a master class in musical method acting. I’m always prepared to be skeptical about pop masquerading as jazz, but Brönner thankfully has it the other way round, coming to the music on Oceana from very strong jazz roots. Perhaps not one for the absolute purist, but anybody who likes a rich production, and finds enough jazz in Cassandra Wilson’s Blue Notes to satisfy, should warmly receive this impressive disc.

Fred Grand

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