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A Mirror of Different Sounds:
Till Brönner

Blog
A Mirror of Different Sounds: Till Brönner

10.09.2018

Article: Leyla Aksu
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

Hailed as the “German Chet Baker,” jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn artist, singer, composer, and photographer Till Brönner has been lending his unique, contemporary air to bebop for over twenty years. Embracing an ongoing musical path that has led him all the way from bop through to smooth ballads, multi-genre flourishes, and an ever-increasing minimalism and refinement, Brönner has become the best-selling German jazz artist in his country’s history since his debut release in the early 1990’s. Before taking the Istanbul stage once more, this time at the 28th Akbank Jazz Festival, here we take a look at some of the career highlights across this prolific artist’s journey through jazz.

-Till Brönner has carved out a career spanning close to 20 studio albums, two Grammy nominations, collaborators as storied and diverse as Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Monty Alexander, Melody Gardot, Annie Lennox, and Type O Negative, and a teaching appointment at the College of Music, Carl Maria von Weber, all while embracing the freedom in his music. “It’s not just dedication, but an obsession... It’s the hunger and the obsession to keep creating, and to be reacting to something you’re not prepared for. That’s really what jazz is.”

-Born in Viesen, Germany in 1971 and raised in Rome, Brönner started playing the trumpet at the age of nine. Trained classically during these early years, he then came to jazz at the age of 13, initially through the legend of Charlie Parker and others like Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong. Brönner describes this introduction to bebop as the beginning of everything and the heightened listening experience he felt as almost indecent; “it was like breaking all the rules I had known.”

-Going on to study at Cologne’s College of Music, Brönner began his professional career while still in school by joining the orchestra of pianist Horst Jankowski. Shortly thereafter, his debut album Generations of Jazz was released to great acclaim in 1993, receiving the prestigious German Record Critics’ Award and boasting a more tradition bop sound, accompanied by musicians like Ray Brown, Jeff Hamilton, and Grégoire Peters.

-Accompanied by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, 1996’s German Songs then marked his first foray into film music, showcasing his arrangements of classic German film themes for jazz quartet and classical orchestra. However, Brönner’s explorations into the music of film continued to flourish throughout the years, first with the soundtracks for Jazz Seen (2001) and Höllentour (2004), and he still performs his filmic arrangements, armed with a repertoire of classics like The Godfather, Titanic, Chinatown, and Casablanca.

-Highly prolific, Brönner made his debut for Verve in 1998 with Love, and 2002 saw the release of his collaboration with DJ Samon Kawamura and Mark Murphy, the electronically sprinkled Blue Eyed Soul, followed by one of his biggest albums, That Summer (2004), which situated him as the best-selling jazz artist in Germany. Other select releases have included 2009’s Brazilian tribute, the bossa nova heavy Rio, 2010’s more rock-focused At the End of the Day, and 2014’s Movie Album, a collection of his ongoing cinematic journey.

-Now known for infusing his initial traditional sound with these various styles, from R&B and electronic music to elements of rock, pop, and soul, though never ostentatiously, Brönner has consistently branched out with each new release. And though he may be categorized as having a smoother sound or veering out from within the confines of jazz, his career has heeded no such limitations, looking only to create his own recognizable sound. “If you like it, you like it; if you don’t like it, no problem. I’m just a jazz trumpeter.”

-Finally, Brönner’s most recent album is 2018’s Nightfall. Displaying a more experimental turn of his minimalism, this collaboration with bassist Dieter Ilg features pieces by Leonard Cohen, the Beatles, Johnny Green, Ornette Coleman, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Melchior Vulpius, as well as a few of the duo’s originals. “Throughout my career, I have had the desire to reduce things to their essentials. With this project, I have realized a long-held dream of mine.”

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