Till Brönner & Bob James – On Vacation

Trumpeter and singer Till Brönner and legendary keyboardist/pianist Bob James met at the equally famous “La Fabrique” studios in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, close to Marseille, in September 2019 to record “On Vacation” (Sony Music), an album of music that is supposed to get you to the places you want to go to for a holiday. And thus, the album closes with a very relaxed and easy-going version of “Basin Street Blues”, less bluesy, more swinging. And it opens with an equally sophisticated version of the Buddy Johnson classic “Save Your Love For Me”, with Till on flugelhorn and Bob’s signature touch on the piano where you think his hands only vaguely touch the keys. Harvey Mason‘s drum work complements softly, and a lyrical bass by Christian von Kaphengst adds to the elegance.

Till Brönner  Bob James "On Vacation"

Four songs were composed by Till and three by Bob. The Brazilian touch on the breezy “Lemonade” (composed by Till) shows more of Till’s Michael Franks-sounding phrasing and style. Even though the tune veers towards the kitschy side of things, it is saved by great solo work on keys and flugel. “Lavender Fields”, another slow and tender Till Composition with a summery feel to it, spreads more ease and relaxation and Bob’s piano style remains unmistakeably his own – he will be 81 this December and hasn’t lost any of his signature skills. Let’s stay with the Till compositions. “Scent Of Childhood” could actually come from an earlier, mid 80s Bob James album. The luxurious, luscious arrangement and the Fourplay-style production sound works pretty well. The other original vocal cut on the album is a pretty simple pop ditty: “On Vacation”, the title song, doesn’t really resonate. Somehow sounds cheesy.

So what about the other cover songs? There is a very syrupy “September Morn”, the Neil Diamond classic, but thankfully it has enough spice to keep it from getting too stale. “I Get It From You”, originally by the pop/soul group Pages who released three LPs between 1978 and 1981 (really worth checking out) and who were usually supported by the most highly regarded session musicians (the original version had Victor Feldman and Dave Grusin), retains those West Coast feel-good moments with Till’s vocals caressing the gorgeous melody. I like the handclap sounds towards the end. A favorite!

The Bob James compositions? A very typical, almost classical-sounding “Elysium”, a fancy and brooding “Late Night”, another one of those characteristic James tunes where you always have the feeling that there will be a breaking out moment which then never materializes and thus, keep it at pace and at peace (great solo work with muted trumpet), and “Miranda”, a tender and moving ballad, exceptionally quiet and meditative and more “Late Night”-ish than “Late Night” gets.

“Sunset On Vale”, composed by Harvey Mason and Scott Tibbs, adds more modesty and unpretentiousness with its contemplative texture, and the bonus cut, “If Someone Had Told Me”, written by Peter DeRose with lyrics by Charles Tobias (there is a wonderful version of this song by Sarah Vaughan with the Percy Faith Orchestra from 1952), credits Till on flugelhorn and vocals, but it is actually an instrumental here, staying true to the original beauty and simplicity. What a great match Till and Bob turn out to be.

The album will be released on Friday, October 30th, with a date still to be set for the vinyl version.


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