CD review

Nils Wogram – ‘Bright Lights’

Nils Wogram – Bright Lights
(nwog records 033. Review by Jon Carvell)

There’s something of a tradition among German jazz trombonists of releasing solo albums. And I don’t mean as leaders of a group, I mean one trombonist, one trombone and one microphone. The late Albert Mangelsdorff (1928-2005), a pivotally influential figure in German jazz, is credited with having made the first ever complete solo album on a brass instrument, with Trombirds from 1972. Konrad  (‘Conny’) Bauer (b.1944) has made at least five. Now, following in their footsteps, is the irrepressible Nils Wogram,  here making his first foray into fully solo territory. As the trombonist, born in Braunschweig in Lower Saxony 1972, and now based in Zurich, explains: “I worked on it mentally for decades and finally recorded it in spring 2020 with fine vintage equipment.”

There are technical fireworks aplenty in Bright Lights: multiphonics abound, and the unusual texture of chords on a trombone makes for a sombre chorale on A Humbled Man. It’s certainly impressive stuff, but perhaps more as a feat of brass virtuosity rather than a composition that will convert newcomers to the unaccompanied format.

Where Wogram really shines, however, is in his ability to play a melody with consummate grace and ease, as if it has just occurred to him on the spur of the moment. The album is bookended by two lullabies, and these are in many ways the most effective tracks because of their simplicity. Wogram’s phrasing is flawless and it feels as though there is no barrier between what he imagines and what he plays. There is an elegance to his playing here too – decorating with classy ornamentation or just letting the tune speak for itself. If you imagined yourself as a great jazz trombonist, this is how you’d want to sound.

Meanwhile, Levity brims with energy and there’s no let-up to its racing bebop lines, whereas Trip to Staten Island has a lovely sense of wistfulness and nods to Wogram’s student years in New York during the 90s. This album is a window into Wogram’s personal practice room, and few other trombonists would sound as good jamming alone like this.

Bright Lights is available from Nils Wogram’s website

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