Cool jazz and hot topics: Till Brönner's "Christmas"

Till Brönner always plays jazz according to his own ideas - for example, even well-known Christmas songs in a casual guise, making them sound completely different from what they are used to. As in the case of his album "Christmas", which is being released on vinyl today. A more than good reason for rampstyle editor-in-chief and publisher Michael Köckritz to talk to Brönner.
Text Michael Köckritz
Photo Till Brönner

Till Brönner is not only Germany's undisputed number one in jazz, but also an artistic multi-talent in other ways: as a trumpeter, singer, composer, producer and photographer, as well as with his unique charisma and unmistakable sound, he fascinates audiences all over the world. We, in turn, look forward to every meeting with him, because he is enthusiastic and committed to things that focus on the essential, to get to the point. And this time? He brings Christmas to the point with his new album - and in the interview, what suits us well in the cold season and otherwise.

Mr Brönner, you recently released a new album, titled Christmas. A typical Christmas album, and that from Mister Jazz?
Till Brönner It’s not exactly typical. It’s a Christmas album that thoroughly reserves itself the right to do without the tinsel and affected joy for the festive season. What remains are the compositions, a recurring theme and a minimalism that I personally feel extremely comfortable with. Especially since I didn’t want to and couldn’t ignore the reality around us these last one and a half years.

For his newest record, the jazz musician and photographer opted against a large orchestra and recorded the intimate »Christmas« in a trio with pianist Frank Chastenier and bassist Christian von Kaphengst. The recording is filled with Christmas songs spanning various decades and genres, including “Jesus to a Child” by George Michael and “Christmas Time Is Here” with singer Max Mutzke.

In the middle of this new reality, the pandemic, you released your previous album, which was called On Vacation of all things …?
Well, we chose the title when the whole Covid thing was still far from our radar screens. Back then, we thought it would perfectly convey the feeling of the times. And when the pandemic hit, there was indeed some discussion with the record company about whether the title might suddenly sound a bit cynical. Personally, I see the virus as something that has nothing to do with art. And as I’ve never before experienced a time that was as uninspiring and artistically unproductive as the one we are living in right now, I’m quite happy that we chose to keep the title. The album’s release created exactly the resonance that I originally envisaged. There are so many people out there yearning, perhaps even aching for art, culture, distraction and emotion.

And what is coolness for you personally?
I see coolness as a form of independence. You can tell by looking at someone whether they have the right mix of expertise and experience, but also a certain detachment to be sure of their achievements at the end of the day. There are people who radiate a certain something without really having to do anything to make it happen. So for me, coolness is about radiating independence. I hate the word “trendsetting”, but I think it is attributed to people who take a closer look at things and don’t immediately jump on the next bandwagon. Coolness is as rare today as it ever was because it requires a certain independence from current affairs.

»So for me, coolness is about radiating independence.«

Till Brönner

So an attitude of calm and composure?
Definitely. Knowing your own position, knowing where you stand, knowing what you must contribute to certain situations, what you can bring to the table – that’s substantial. But perhaps it is also the strength to resist and to say, “I’m not going along with that,” or “I don’t need to do that.” We are experiencing an extreme amount of pressure from the various media these days to constantly do what the majority expects from us. Part of coolness, whether you’re a car manufacturer or a musician, is being able to resist the general trend and say: “I am who I am.”

→ Read more about Till Brönner in the soon to be released rampstyle #24. You can find his latest album on vinyl here:

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