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Culture

A Little Bit of Soul for Germany’s Jazz Scene

When people think of jazz they don’t ordinarily think of Germany. But Till Brönner, one of the youngest and most creative jazz musicians on the scene today, could change all that with his album "Blue Eyed Soul".

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Jazz trumpeter Till Brönner could be Germany's answer to Wynton Marsalis

When Till Brönner started out as a musician he was regarded as the prodigy of Germany’s growing jazz scene. At age 15 he was playing trumpet in clubs and festivals throughout Germany. By the time he turned 20 he was performing alongside such jazz legends as Dee Dee Bridgewater and Ray Brown. Now well established as one of Germany’s leading jazz musicians, the 30-year old Brönner is reaping praise for his unique form of jazz.

The German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" has referred to his style of jazz as "an elegant flow of lines and ideas". The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" has called Brönner "a phenomenal talent", and the "Financial Times Germany" has praised the musician’s "artistic simplicity".

Cross-over jazz

In the course of his 15-year musical career, Brönner has moved back and forth from traditional jazz along the lines of his American role model Chet Baker to hip-hop arrangements and fusion. He’s experimented with rap and hip-hop, dabbled in soul and R&B and combined bluesy vocal samples with electronic beats.

In each of his eight albums, Brönner has tried to push the boundaries of jazz by combining it in unusual ways. His unique blend of trumpet, vocals and hip-hop scratches defies definition.

"I make my own music," Brönner states on his homepage, "It doesn’t matter to me what people call it."

"The only thing that counts is that when people hear the music they aren’t annoyed by it. People shouldn’t have to pay for stress", he says.

Blue Eyed Soul

After nine months of hard work and probably a good bit of stress during the production phase, Brönner has now come out with his most successful album so far, "Blue Eyed Soul".

"Funky, sexy, relaxed and mature" is how jazz aficionados are referring to it. The songs reflect a soothing blend of jazz, hip-hop and R&B – a suitable combination for "the lounge, the pool and the bedroom, before breakfast and after a candlelight dinner", says the composer himself.

"Blue Eyed Soul" was recorded in collaboration with the Japanese DJ Samon Kawamura. The influence of hip-hop and rap is therefore obvious, but not overwhelming. The trick, says Brönner, was to find the common ground where "neither the trumpet nor the DJ dominates".

The intent was to produce a "big city CD that celebrates diversity," Brönner says. Together with Kawamura, Brönner reworked his jazz sounds, underlaying them with scratches, beats and raps until the two got the right sound mix.

On his webpage Brönner recalls the months of work and the give and take between the two different styles of music: "As soon as I started tooting away with jazz, Samon would roll his eyes at me; and when he came at me with pure hip-hop, I answered with jazz riffs."

The result of the collaboration may not be completely to everyone’s liking – hip-hopers think it’s not aggressive enough, and jazz lovers miss some of the traditional smoothness – but it does have a little bit of something for everyone, and a whole lot of soul, something the German jazz scene can certainly use.

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