REVIEW: Till Brönner The Good Life album pre-release showcase at the Century Club

Trumpeter Till Brönner and guitarist Bruno Müller
Photo by Amanda Annandale

Till Brönner
(Century Club, July 29th 2016. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

“It’s so much fun to have an umlaut in your name,” says trumpeter Till Brönner, going on to introduce “the two umlauts on guitar and bass.” These are Bruno Müller and Lars Gühlcke. Along with David Haynes on drums and Roberto Di Gioia on piano they make up a tight quintet who have flown over from Berlin to play an intimate little gig to launch Brönner’s new CD. The venue is the Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue in London, in an upstairs room with surprisingly excellent acoustics. Till Brönner cut his teeth as a soloist in Berlin’s RIAS Big Band and is now one the most successful German jazz musicians. He’s certainly a star in his home country and has a considerable international track record, having played with Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Mark Murphy, Ray Brown and Johnny Griffin over the course of his 18 CDs, many on the Verve label.

He’s now signed with Sony and his new album is a collection of standards, which feature him on vocals as well as trumpet and flugelhorn. The album was recorded in Los Angeles with (John Clayton (Bass), Jeff Hamilton (Drums) , Larry Goldings (Piano) & Anthony Wilson (Guitar), and produced by veteran, Dutch-born Ruud Jacobs.

Tonight’s opening number is also the title of the new CD The Good Life, “probably my most personal album in years,” he has said. It’s a track made famous by Frank Sinatra and Till Brönner wisely decides not to try to compete as a singer on this one. Roberto Di Gioia’s rippling piano provides a ski slope for Brönner’s honeyed muted trumpet. On Sweet Lorraine Di Gioia continues to display his artful prowess with a boppish solo that throws the melody up in the air and catches it in a new configuration as it comes down. Brönner offers his first vocal, conveying the lyric with swinging rhythm and percussive emphasis. Interestingly, he sings like a drummer rather than a horn player — notably strong on pulse and timing. Switching back to the trumpet Brönner plays a big solo, bold and boisterous with a flavour of the early days of jazz highly appropriate for this song. The fact that he only sings the occasional chorus in a largely instrumental setting again recalls the heyday of the big bands, when vocalists were a small element of a large jazz combo.

On For All We Know Di Gioia plays with sweet, spare Bill Evans minimalism. David Haynes’s liquid, shimmering cymbals prepare us for the sound of Brönner’s trumpet — vast, wide, sustained notes delivered with great precision on the open horn. He plays with eloquence and taste, melancholy and virtuosic. Lars Gühlcke’s bass provides a firm, slow, thudding foundation for the building of Till Brönner’s solo. Bruno Müller offers sparse, elegant comping on the guitar before moving into the spotlight for Her Smile, a Brönner composition, playing a fast, fluent bossa guitar solo. This track is another example of the leader’s seamless alternation between trumpet and vocals and there is neat, invigorating use of sticks on the rims and cymbals by Haynes. There’s also a terrific partnership here between Müller’s school-of-Wes-Montgomery electric guitar, notes falling big and singular like fat raindrops on a tropical night, and Brönner’s soaring, slicing, rapid fire trumpet.

The evening ends on I’m Confessin’ (that I Love You), Brönner opening with breezy, sashaying muted trumpet as Müller plays cheerful, chunking guitar and Di Gioia fills the gaps with piano chords. Müller accelerates into joyful, buoyant bop and Brönner’s horn rings high, keen and clear, emerging from the tune like a spotlight through smoke. Till Brönner’s new album is being marketed as “smooth jazz”, but if this gig is anything to go by, that sells it rather short. This is fluent, expertly played jazz, as taut as it is relaxed. The real stuff.

The Good Life will be launched on September 2nd, and Brönner has a subatantial touring schedule in Germany in the autumn. 

Categories: miscellaneous

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