Till Brönner

The Movie Album

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The Movie Album is a career aspiration come true for Till Brönner, a record he's desired to make for more than a decade. His themes from Hollywood movies, classic and contemporary (with a TV theme thrown in), make this more a pop-jazz record than one for cinephiles. Co-produced by the artist and guitarist Chuck Loeb, most of the set was recorded at Hollywood's East West Studios with a crack band of studio aces, with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester's parts recorded in Berlin. For all of this recording's lush harmonics and restrained dynamics, Brönner's playing and the force of his personality carry it off. While "When You Wish Upon a Star," on which he is backed only by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, is a rather obvious starting point, Gregory Porter's appearance on a soulful modern take of "Stand by Me" -- complete with B-3, Rhodes, and strings -- isn't. "Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso" features the studio quintet and symphony. Brönner's flügelhorn and Loeb's acoustic guitar engage the melody as winds and strings hover. Mitchel Forman's piano solo floats under Brönner's horn, before Loeb solos more insistently. Brass, winds, and strings rise to meet the jazz group. "Il Postino" places Brönner with the orchestra to remind us of his great facility for expression. The same is true for "The Godfather Waltz/Love Theme from The Godfather." For all his restraint, his lyricism is profound. There are some problems: his vocal on "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" is lifeless, and Lizzy Cuesta's (aka Lizzy Loeb) on "Moon River" is amateurish at best. However, vocalist Joy Denalane employs a gentle, classy swing on "As Time Goes By," aided by Brönner's muted solo and a Rhodes piano and guitar. "Crockett's Theme," from Miami Vice, is a welcome surprise. Rather than the sheeny production bluster of the original, the band brings out its innate melody; Brönner's solo is his best one here. "My Heart Will Go On" has been done to death, but this sextet and symphony version is texturally rich and fluid. For these few moments, the tune sheds its cultural baggage to become a solid contemporary jazz number. The outlier is "Happy," used in Despicable Me 2. Recorded after the album was thought finished, it contains a fine horn chart by David Mann. It's funky, finger-popping fun with a gritty tenor sax solo by Everette Harp. The Movie Album's wide variety of themes, strategically produced for adult pop and contemporary jazz audiences, feels intended to achieve maximum chart impact -- but that doesn't make it a bad record. Missteps aside, these beautifully arranged mostly imaginative performances make it a fine addition to Brönner's -- and film music's -- catalogs.

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