Till Brönner / Günter Sommer

Baby's Party

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In celebration of his seventy-fifth birthday, acclaimed German percussionist Günter Baby Sommer paired with trumpeter Till Brönner for this adventurous and surprisingly cohesive duo album, 2018's Baby's Party. At face value, Sommer and Brönner may seem like an odd match. A longtime exponent of creative avant-garde jazz and free improvisation, Sommer has played with such highly regarded luminaries as Wadada Leo Smith, Peter Brötzmann, and Cecil Taylor. Conversely, Brönner is one of the most recognizable German instrumentalists, whose albums often straddle the line between straight-ahead, and smooth jazz. That said, Brönner is also an immensely gifted soloist, as indebted to the harmonically rich post-bop of Woody Shaw as the warm lyricism of Miles Davis. Here, both ends of the trumpeter's influences are redolent as he joins Sommer on a set of original (and one assumes largely improvised) songs as well as imaginative renditions of the standards "Danny Boy" and Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood." What's particularly compelling about the album is just how relaxed and beautifully counterbalanced the duo's performances are, shifting from emotive melodicism one minute to atonal expressiveness the next. While the absence of a chordal instruments means there is an abundance of space to fill, Sommer's inventive percussion choices, including trap set, drums, and what sound like sundry gongs, shakers, metal shards, woodblocks, and bells, more than makes up for the lack of piano or bass. Similarly, Brönner never sounds anything less than commanding, able to convey a song's harmonic and melodic structure just as he leaps off into the oblivion with breathy growls, puckered chirps, and long, sanguine sighs. Baby's Party is an organic, highly engaging conversation.

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