Midnight is German trumpeter Till Brönner's fourth date as a leader, recorded while he was still a member of Berlin's RIAS Big Band. Issued originally by Uwe Buschkötter Button Records, it was picked up by Verve when they signed Brönner to a contract that lasted a decade, making this his debut for the label. Produced and arranged by David Mann with his trademark, polished, 1990s sound, Midnight remains an undeserved sleeper in the trumpeter's catalog. It shouldn't be -- Mann's charts are at their most inspired here. The personnel is almost as much a showcase as Brönner: drummer Dennis Chambers, bassist Anthony Jackson, guitarists Dean Brown and Jimi Tunnell, percussionist Manolo Badrena, keyboardist George Whitty (from RIAS Big Band), and Mann on keyboards, programming reeds, and winds. Michael Brecker guests on tenor saxophone. Brönner plays trumpet, flügelhorn, and acoustic piano. The opener is a long, lithe funk reading of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," with Brecker and the trumpeter trading fine solos. The title track, co-composed by Brönner and Stefan Raab, is '90s smooth jazz to the hilt, its programmed drums and loops contrast with the languid, melodic, muted trumpet and a popping CTI-style horn chart. The blissed-out wah-wah guitar that establishes the funk in "Highway to Heaven" is a Brönner compositional highlight. Speaking of funk, Whitty's "Reporting from Rangoon" is a bad groover from top to bottom, with nasty clavinet and Mann's canny sense of time and vamp in the horn chart. The version of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" is visionary and reveals the depth of both emotion and sophistication Brönner is capable of as both a melodist and soloist, accompanied by fat, rolling synths and Jackson's rubbery bassline punching up the horns. Chambers' breaks are tight and hot, adding to the tough bottom in an airy arrangement. "Tribeca" is a vehicle for Mann and Brönner to exchange lyric and solo contributions with guest Ned Mann on upright bass. "Racer" commences as a ballad; it features Tunnell's magnificent guitaristry in one of Mann's finer charts. The set closes on "Waiting," a shiny, easy-grooving, lyric funk number. Brönner's flügelhorn winds through the melody with a breezy grace amid more insistent bass, horn, and keyboard elements with Chambers' elastic drumming keeping the overall flow. Midnight is not only a high point in Brönner's catalog, but a shining light in contemporary jazz. Period.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek