Till Brönner

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Oceana Review

by Jonathan Widran

For those in America who hadn't previously heard of Germany's most famous contemporary jazz musician, it would only take a few notes from his crisp, distant trumpet to elicit a comparison to Chris Botti. Beyond his tonal approach and penchant for relaxing, atmospheric, and lushly arranged standards, Till Brönner has much in common with his American counterpart: an extensive catalog (Oceana, originally released in Germany in 2006, was his ninth release), work with top pop producers (in Botti's case, Bobby Colomby; in Brönner's, Larry Klein), and a résumé that includes being a radio personality. Like Botti, Brönner draws from the sly and shy Chet Baker school of crooning trumpet and flügelhorning, but he goes a step further; on a silky chillout cover of "This Guy's in Love with You" and the more obscure Nick Drake tune "River Man," the horn takes a back seat to his soothing lead vocals. Though much of Oceana -- which begins with a tender and seductive blues-flavored twist on Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin'" -- is lovely, romantic, and sweetly atmospheric, it falls short when it comes to Brönner's vocal guest list. Carla Bruni is billed as a French chanteuse, but her colorless voice on "In My Secret Life" is nowhere near as sexy as any of her legendary work as a supermodel. Madeleine Peyroux fares a bit better on "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," but the most authentic guest voice belongs to Brazilian singer Luciana Souza. None of the vocals are as compelling as Brönner's straight instrumentals, which don't exactly push the envelope but are well-produced and make for good romantic mood music.

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