Born: May 6, 1971 in Viersen, Germany
Trumpeter and crooner Till Bronner was the most famous German jazz musician of his generation, updating traditional bebop sensibilities via elements of contemporary R&B and hip-hop. Born in Viersen, Germany, on May 6, 1971, Bronner discovered the music of Charlie Parker at 13, and later studied jazz trumpet at the Hochschule fur Musik Koln. After just three semesters, he turned professional as a member of pianist Horst Jankowski's RIAS-Tanzorchester. In 1993 he cut his debut solo LP, Generations of Jazz, a traditional hard bop homage recorded with guests including bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The album won a number of awards, among them the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and the Preis der Deutschen Plattenindustrie. With his third release, 1996's German Songs, Bronner arranged classic German film themes for jazz quartet and classical orchestra, anticipating the creative detours of sessions to follow. 1998's Love heralded his first release for the venerable Verve imprint as well as his debut as a singer, and two years later he issued Chattin with Chet, a project that cemented his growing debt to the American cool jazz legend Chet Baker. After scoring the acclaimed 2001 feature Jazz Seen, a documentary spotlighting the influential photographer William Claxton, Bronner resurfaced a year later with the ambitious Blue Eyed Soul, a collaboration with Japanese DJ Samon Kawamura and soul vocalist Mark Murphy that embraced electronica idioms to update the trumpeter's sound into the postmodern era. A concert tour with soul singer Joy Denelane followed, setting the stage for Bronner's biggest mainstream hit to date: 2004's That Summer, which reached number 16 on the German pop charts and made him the nation's biggest-selling jazz artist of all time. Two years later he resurfaced with the Larry Klein-produced Oceana, an all-star effort featuring contributions from singers spanning from Madeleine Peyroux to model Carla Bruni.
- Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide)
Funky, sexy, relaxed, and mature. That's what Till Bronner's "Blue-Eyed Soul" sounds like. The 30-year-old, who spent already half of his life as a musician, distilled nine months of studio work into this album: "Blue-Eyed Soul" is it's essence, the reduction to the fundamental. A hard piece of work which nonetheless sounds relaxed and impassioned. From the start to the very end, this music is imbued by a passion you can feel in every single note. The sounds are warm and the melodies so catchy that you might feel tempted to sing them along. The tunes are suitable for all occasions: You can listen to them in a lounge bar, on the beach, or in your private bedroom; you can appreciate them before breakfast as much as after a candlelight dinner; you can enjoy them in the cosy company of your sweetheart or together with your buddies. "Blue-Eyed Soul" is the soundtrack for your inner feelings.
Till Bronner took his time in making his eighth album. After all, it was conceived to leave a lasting impression and not to serve some fleeting musical zeitgeist. The trumpeter, producer, composer, and singer is Germany's most famous contemporary jazz musician. And he is one of the best, that's for sure. However, popularity did never mean that much to him. Ever since his first appearance as a soloist on the German jazz scene, he received rave reviews for his performances and recordings. First he played hard bop arrangements of popular German tunes (rather than American jazz standards), then he made some real fusion (instead of elevator music). More recently, he recorded a trumpet duet with the sampled Chet Baker (released on the album "Chattin' With Chet" / Verve 157 534?2) and wrote the soundtrack for the celebrated documentary film "Jazz Seen" (Verve 556 937-2). Now the 30-year-old presents us with "Blue-Eyed Soul", an album on which he makes some surprising stylistic twists. "I make my music, and I don't care how anybody labels it," he says. "The only thing that counts for me is that the music I make does neither get on my own nor on my listeners' nerves. What's the point in buying a record which puts you under stress?"
Joining up forces with Japanese DJ Samon Kawamura, a stylish co-pro ducer,Bronner strikes a happy medium between improvised instrumental music and programmed soul and hiphop beats. "As soon as we were noodling around too much, Samon rolled his eyes," remembers the trumpeter. "And whenever he came up with some 'real hiphop', I brought out my jazz chords." Till knows that you don't have to use much words to really say something. The right tone at the right moment can say more than a thousand of triplets. Bronner plays trumpet, the instrument that is considered to be most similar to the human voice. So he sings on his instrument. Samon's scratches, on the other hand, sound sometimes like background vocals. Even in Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are" Bronner 'sings' the well-known melody on his horn. However, his rendition does not imitate Joel's original version, nor the one Barry White did - it's purely Bronner. In one song, the elegantly flowing "Tub Of Love", Till even sings without using his trumpet, though his soft vocals blend extremely well with his soulful trumpet phrasings. Bronner, the trumpeter, accompanies Bronner, the singer. In "Dim The Lights", probably the most groovy track of this set, US cult singer Mark Murphy's voice is being backed up by Bronner's horn. But in what a marvellous way.
There's a saying that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. And in that respect "Blue-Eyed Soul" is very revealing. You've got to know the rules to break them, goes another saying. And the best musicians establish, of course, their own rules. That's what you call artistic freedom, or getting grown-up. Till Bronner already played with legendary acoustic bassist Ray Brown and German bandleader Peter Herbolzheimer, he performed with Chaka Khan and Dee Dee Bridgewater, and he produced albums for the outstanding German film and TV stars Hildegard Knef and Manfred Krug. But Till has also listened a lot to the completely different music of soul, rhythm'n'blues, and hiphop artists likes D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and The Roots. On "Blue-Eyed Soul", he (finally!) wanted to reflect these listening experiences in his own style. "We worked until the music sounded like I heard it in my head for quite some time," notes Bronner. "It costed a lot of time and energy. But I think the result speaks for itself." Fifteen tracks, fifteen different shades of the trumpeter's "Blues-Eyed Soul". The music is never blue-eyed, though, but always soulful.