NILS WOGRAM trombone
HAYDEN CHISHOLM alto saxophone
MATT PENMAN bass
JOCHEN RÜCKERT drums
Nils Wogram & Bojan Z
BOJAN Z piano
2021: nominated for the German Jazz Prize, winner of the German Record Critics’ Prize, winner of the Swiss Music Prize
ARNO KRIJGER hammond, pedals
DEJAN TERZIC drums
KATHRIN PECHLOF harp
HAYDEN CHISHOLM alto sax, overtone singing
GARETH LUBBE vionlin, viola, overtone singing
A trombone, nothing else! What has long been normal on piano or guitar, for example, still seems unusual, not to say daring, on the trombone. Yet this unusual line-up has a long tradition in German jazz. Both Albert Mangelsdorff and Conny Bauer have demonstrated this and presented their instrument as a solo instrument on several style-defining albums and in countless solo concerts. With his solo debut Bright Lights, Nils Wogram not only hooks up with this great tradition, but at the same time opens up completely new perspectives.
Nils Wogram has not had to prove his musical ability for a long time, and it was only a question of time when Wogram would also postulate his relationship to the solo trombone. In contrast to the aforementioned pioneers of this subject, he no longer has to position his instrument in the club of solo instruments, but can simply play it. He doesn’t have to prove anything, doesn’t have to thread together the playful possibilities of the trombone and its improvisational derivations song for song, but rather he can cheerfully and entertainingly blow his very own stories through the tube. Although Wogram relies on a single sound source without technical aids or devices, his artistic maxim is as integrative as playing with a large band. Any form of dogmatism is fundamentally foreign to him. His aim on Bright Lights is to incorporate as many creative means as possible and not to exclude, omit or even prevent certain parameters. “I definitely didn’t want to fall into the trap of complacency. The listener shouldn’t have to constantly bear in mind that all he hears is trombone. It’s all about interesting and varied music.”
To make the narrative qualities of his horn as broad and varied as possible, he penetrated much deeper into the trombone’s bag of tricks than before. While doing this, he always focused on what the respective creative means for each individual song were.
Wogram already worked occasionally on solo projects in the past. But his previous programs were based more on the improvisational conditions of the instrument. For Bright Lights he found a new approach, one in which he focused more on the narrative qualities of his horn. This narrative aspect lends itself more to the trombone than to any other instrument, for no sound generator comes as close to the human voice as Wogram’s playing apparatus. He knows about these possibilities and uses them as an opportunity. “The character of the trombone is extremely changeable. I like it when the trombone retains its basic character. Of course I too often succumb to the tendency to play the trombone as purely as possible, but its charm lies not least in its certain roughness and linguistic mutability.”
Wogram also deliberately plays with the instrument’s limitations. As if in free flight he overcomes the trombone’s gravity, but instead of negating it, he skillfully transforms its relative heaviness in the lift of musical thermodynamics into a flying carpet from which his stories fly over to the listener lightly and elegantly like swifts. His playing thus becomes airy, colorful and three-dimensional.
At the same time he is not interested in his personal standing as a player or virtuoso. As in all his other projects, his ego completely recedes behind the music, which in turn makes him all the stronger as a musical individual.
As demanding as this solo album is playful, Wogram does not, however, address himself exclusively to trombone gourmets with this album, but to listeners of all colors who can simply enjoy inventive musical storytelling. In this sense, Bright Lights is neither an acrobatic revue nor a showcase for the trombone, and certainly not a retrospective test of strength with his idols Mangelsdorff or Bauer, to whom Wogram certainly feels that bowing to them is a challenge for the album. In a very simple sentence he sums up his credo: “I am not interested in analyzing my craft, but solely in artistic substance.”
A trombone, nothing else! Nils Wogram succeeds in a touching way to manifest basic trust in his own musical statements, to confess his artistic origins without mutating into plagiarism, and thus to tell new stories that nevertheless do not seem out of place in familiar settings. Ultimately, with “Bright Lights” he is clearing the way for the creative power of socially sensitive individualism in times of increasing uniformity and conformity.
All or nothing! No half measures! Where routine weariness becomes noticeable in the careers of many other artists, one senses that every new project trombonist Nils Wogram takes on is his very first one. This is particularly noticeable on his new CD, Muse, recorded with harpist Kathrin Pechlof, violist and overtone singer Gareth Lubbe and Wogram’s long-term companion Hayden Chisholm on saxophone. But why start from scratch once again with a completely new band when Wogram has achieved everything a jazz musician can ever achieve with working bands such as Root 70, Nostalgia or the Vertigo Trombone Quartet as well as alongside Aki Takase, Simon Nabatov, Bojan Z, Michel Portal and many others? The answer is as simple as it is complex: because Nils Wogram simply can’t help but give in to his instinctive artistic curiosity and look at what is waiting for him over the horizon, regardless of everything he has achieved,
And so everything on Muse is actually completely different than what one is used to from Nils Wogram and his musical environment. The only constant remains Hayden Chisholm, a musician who has unreservedly shared the trombonist’s obsessions for decades and who always gives him a bit of support, not only musically but also, above all, as a human being – despite Wogram’s willingness to take risks. Wogram has also played together with Kathrin Pechlof from Berlin and Gareth Lubbe from South Africa in various groupings, but a line-up like the one on Muse has never existed before and is probably unparalleled in music history in general. All the greater is the incentive for the visionary trombonist, who never searches just for the sake of searching, but whose goal mark without any compromise is “finding,” to make the impossible possible and the unheard audible.
Nils Wogram’s music has always been characterized by a great sensuality. While he has celebrated the sensuality of the moment in almost all his projects so far, the sensuality of the lasting comes to the fore on Muse. Lingering in this form plays a major role in the chamber-musical feel of this constellation. The warm sounds sometimes recall the portraits of an Amadeo Modigliani, images that have frozen into still lifes. To stay in the picture, the album’s compositions can be visualized not so much as a leaf moving jauntily in a spontaneous gust of wind, but rather as a vase that graces a room in its once-created form and plays with light.
“There are improvised passages on Muse as well,” Wogram notes, “but they are much less influenced by jazz, a characteristic that, of course, is very much up to the protagonists. When I was composing, I already knew with whom I would make the music and where their strengths lay. I brought that into harmony with my musical ideas. Only the future will show the extent to which these musical forms are permanently fixed or will develop further. I don’t know at the moment.”
How could you? With this CD, the Muse project is only just beginning. This laid-back openness to all the possibilities – ones that can arise from what has just begun – is also easily transferred to the listener. The music may be complex, but its immanent beauty and friendliness, for all its formal rigor, is also enormously relaxing for the listener. Muse is a quiet album. Every note counts. Sound is the crucial component. “A priority for me was to allow this quiet, sensual music to happen without questioning, from the outset, whether it would work in the form of a CD or live performance,” Wogram says. “I just like that aesthetic. But it can only work if I implement it consistently. Consistency for me is directly related to clarity. Music with a strong mood always releases strong emotions.”
In Muse, the constellations and transformations in the compositions are as diverse as the incidence of light at different times of day. The individual sounds interpenetrate each other with such transparency that it is not always possible to say exactly if this is a harp or viola, or where the multiphonics on the trombone begin and where Lubbe’s overtone singing ends? Chisholm’s saxophone runs through these sonic light shows like a spirit that continually mediates between physicality and foreboding. The harp – a very quiet instrument on whose level all other sound sources must or may engage – provides the timbre. For the first time in the long history of his music, Wogram has recorded an album in a sitting position in order to engage with the demands of the harp from all sides. Kathrin Pechlof, on the other hand, absorbs the input of trombone, saxophone, viola and voice in her thousand and one strings. This almost fairytale-like harmony is the basis, not the result of playing together. In this way, even from the outside, it is quite easy to listen to the four participants listening to each other.
In ancient mythology, the muse is a figure who unites the divine principle of creation and passes it on to mankind. The fables of great artistic personalities and their muses fill entire compendia. Nils Wogram, Kathrin Pechlof, Hayden Chisholm and Gareth Lubbe, however, do not need a personified source of inspiration to enter together into the service of the musical muse. Their tone poems without lyrics are full of poetry and show one thing above all: The first step is always the easiest!
Nils Wogram`s reputation as the pioneer of contemporary jazz “made in Germany” has been boosted a lot by the fact that he, of all people, masters Albert Mangelsdorff`s instrument, the trombone with a virtuosity and recklessness few others possess. His trio Nostalgia takes the opposite approach going back to the swinging and grooving jazz of the 50s and 60s of the past century, a time when jazz was still at home at Blue Note or on 52nd Street, and managing masterfully the tightrope walk between nostalgic sound and curiosity about finding their own form of sound.Wogram manages to convey an authentic attitude to life in the shortest possible way- no instruction leaflet or highlighted map is necessary. He simply starts walking and takes the audience with him. Nostalgia conveys a thundering force of life to the listener.
Much of this is helped by the selection of his fellow musicians. Organist Arno Krijger plays the bass lines with his feet. Thus, the left hand can concentrate on the chords and the right hand provides melodies and improvisations. This unusual set up enables Wogram to build the pieces in an unconventional way. „ Also Arno is not a pianist who also plays the organ, but he exclusively plays the organ. His self-conception lends the organ tonal nuances that are a real asset for me”. Regarding drummer Dejan Terzic, Wogram not only appreciates his instinct for beat, groove and fieriness, but above all his sensitivity for dynamics and form.
To touch or to impress – that is the question the fifth album of the trio, “Things We Like To Hear” (release October 2019) poses. Wogram, Terzić and Krijger make it easy for the listener. They start their album in a light, relaxed manner with a defining dub-melody and carry this lightness through the following eight songs, where they leave out everything superfluous and focus on the essentials. Wogram has often shown that he knows how to implement complex ideas, but now he is breaking new ground. Instead of abstraction, the three musicians rely on simpler structures (without becoming trivial) as well as on undisguised emotions that need no explanation. Despite all the new features, the album still bears the unmistakable signature of Nostalgia. On his previous albums Wogram wondered where we come from, now with “Things We Like To Hear” he explores what we need to preserve from the past. “The timeless components of jazz for me are spontaneity and improvisation. And the simpler the structures are, the more spontaneous it is to improvise. “He himself is neither as a musician nor as a private person a nostalgic, and that applies also to his fellow musicians. All three live in the here and now and want to participate in further developing jazz music. Wogram does not need a headline for that. He refrains from all reflexes and defies expectations. He neither wants to provoke nor does he want to preserve, but he wants to share with listeners, what he and his fellow players crave for in music. Some of the tunes on “Things We Like To Hear” simply capture moods, others call for moving or humming, others may remind you of a good old film noir. His goal is to bring mind and body together. “Things We Like To Hear” is the next step in this direction.
Nils Wogram is a musician who keeps his ears open and who manages to capture the world like it is in his music. With Nostalgia he went back to a starting point, not because he wanted to start from scratch, but because everything that needed to be said has been said and therefore no repetition is necessary.
Nils Wogram (born 1972 in Braunschweig/Germany) started playing the trombone at the age of 15 and studied classical and jazz music. Already at the age of 16 he was a member of the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra, founded his own bands and was a laureate at German “Young Musical Talents” competition. From 1992 to 1994 he studied in New York and completed his education in 1999 at Cologne conservatory. Since then Nils Wogram has released over 30 albums. In 2010 he founded his own label nwog-records and it’s there he publishes his records now. Nils Wogram’s bands exclusively perform original compositions. Other ensembles like to commission him for compositions. He has toured the world and won amongst others the following competitions: Julius Hemphil Competition, Frank Rosolino Competition, BMW Jazz Award, Jazz Echo, Albert Mangelsdorff Award 2013.
Born in 1972 in Terneuzen/Netherlands Arno Krijger not only masters the huge world of jazz thanks to his typical Hammond organ style and his versatility but he also ventures into the worlds of funk, pop and alternative music. Due to his distinctive style (especially when using the pedals) Krijger is a popular sideman on numerous albums of almost all musical styles. He was influenced by Larry Young and Larry Goldings. Krijger has toured extensively and has collaborated in the studio with artists like Billy Hart, Stefan Lievestro, Hans van Oosterhout, Pascal Vermeer,Toine Thys and James Scofield.
Dejan Terzic, born in 1970 in Banja Luka/BIH, moved to Nuremberg with his family when he was three years old and started studying the piano at the age of six. He switched to drums when he was twelve. In 1990 he started studying at the Nuremberg conservatory and later he relocated to Würzburg conservatory to study with Bill Elgart. He enhanced his studies in New York City with Bill Stewart and Duduka da Fonseca and at Vermont Jazz Center with Jimmy Cobb and Attila Zoller. Ever since he is a sought-after sideman (amongst others with Dusko Goykovich and the quintett, Enrico Rava, Johannes Enders) and very successfully has set up his own projects (amongst others Undergound, Melanoia). Since 2008 he teaches drums at the Bern conservatory as lecturer. In 2014 he was awarded the Echo Jazz as best national drummer.
A strong tree has many roots. The jazz band Root 70 is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020 and it puts down this longevity to a whole series of facts. Trombonist Nils Wogram, saxophonist Hayden Chisholm, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jochen Rückert form one of the most stable formations in jazz history. Making music for two decades in an unchanged line-up is not only remarkable in itself, but in the case of Root 70 it is particularly impressive because the band did not choose the easiest path. But let’s start at the beginning, when four young musicians decided to travel a while together.
To make it quite simple: Hayden Chisholm and Matt Penman are from New Zealand and have known each other since their early youth. Already as a teenager, Chisholm came to Cologne via Switzerland. At about the same time, Nils Wogram returned from New York to the conservatory in Cologne where he met Chisholm and Jochen Rückert. The latter had already played in New York with Matt Penman, but not with the saxophonist. Rückert was drumming in Wogram’s quartet, and when the trombonist asked the drummer who he would like to play bass with, he chose the New Zealander from New York. Meanwhile Chisholm played in a trio with Rückert and Penman and invited Wogram as a guest one evening in 1999. “It was the first time there were the four of us in this combination, and I said that this concentration of persons is something special, we have to do it for a little longer than just this one gig,” Wogram recalls.
Expressing such a fundamental insight is one thing, but putting it into practice, not only into action, but into continuous work, is quite another. Nils Wogram decided to take the reins and forged a band out of four musicians who were musically very close to each other, a band that would function according to Alexandre Dumas’ principle “One for all, all for one.” “It always takes one person to catalyze things and get to the heart of the matter,” said Wogram. “We knew each other from various musical contexts and learned to appreciate each other. But it’s like being in a family. You respect each other, but it’s not all just about agreeing with each other. Everyone thinks for himself. We don’t have to be the best of friends and don’t always want the same thing. One of the prerequisites for the band to function for 20 years is that each band member can fully develop and shape the band sound through his own way of playing.”
In May 2000 Root 70 gave its first concert under this name at the Moers Festival. It is unusual that four personalities who are such strong individualists, not only on their instruments but also as musical characters, should nevertheless achieve a highly symbiotic band sound. These four protagonists feel connected by a similar system of musical values and are committed to a similar basic aesthetic.
So they had common intersections; looking for them was unnecessary. But Root 70 managed to do something that few bands have been able to do over so many years: The group has built their work using contrasting ideas – the tension between the musicians – from which new overlaps, breaks, changes of perspective and approaches constantly emerge. Each of the four has found their own place in the band, a place that is flexible and takes personal differences into account. If things were different, the salt would be missing in the soup. You can have differences with your fellow musicians and still make music together, because you basically understand your companions.
A master plan or formulated dream has never existed in Root 70. Purely musically, the band wanted to achieve a kind of sophistication. They wanted to translate their skills as musicians into music with character, not something that is simply well played. “We were serious in realizing our aspirations, but we didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously. The content was always in the foreground. It was important to us to surprise the audience.”
Last but not least, Root 70 also managed to surprise itself with ever new ideas. Which brings us to another point in the band’s internal survival strategy. After the first three albums the band moved on to concept albums for which Wogram gives two reasons: “By avoiding playing randomly, we came up with a conceptual framework that didn’t let us digress into incoherence. This focus was helpful when we composed and formulated our programs. The other reason was the precise occupation with a theme. We didn’t just want to scratch the surface, but to go into depth. We were excited by the question of how one can explore and find freedom within certain boundaries.”
While Cologne was initially a kind of epicenter for Root 70, there is now a great spatial distance between the musicians. Wogram lives in Switzerland, Chisholm in Ireland, Rückert and Penman in New York. Logistically, this creates challenges that are not always easy to overcome, but instead of the former spontaneity of meeting, today there is an unconditional will to harmonize with each other even over long distances.
What brought the four musicians together in the beginning still connects them today. Root 70 is more than a musical institution, more than a success story documented on eight albums. Root 70 is an utopia of reconciling opposites without corrupting the individual claim of each part of the whole.
Duo with Bojan Z.
Two men, one word! Some stories simply write themselves. They are inevitable and must be written for the simple reason that they would otherwise remain unwritten. And that is unacceptable. There is one such story about the duo of Serbian pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic, living in France, or Bojan Z. for short, and of the German trombonist Nils Wogram, living in Switzerland. Europe in a square format, yes, but there is much more to it than that.
When the two musicians stood on the stage together for the first time in 2012, at the Jazzdor Strasbourg- Berlin festival, their performance seemed so staggeringly self-evident. There, two musicians intuitively found a common narrative level, not because they needed to make any sort of effort, but because this playground was simply there. While it might be a platitude that they searched and found each other, that’s exactly what happened. If ever two musicians actually played the moment, without plan, ambition and other frippery, but rather to simply tell the audience and each other what they had to say at that moment, as unpretentiously as possible, then these two did just that.
The interplay of the two still works like a collection of stories, all of which condense at a higher level to form a novel. Wogram as well as Zulfikarpasic tend to productions that – each in his own way – are always very complete. Along with the holistic general impression their interplay makes, they add a component of casual openness in which listeners can enter with all their imagination. Wogram and Zulfikarpasic have appropriated a sharpness of detail that not only makes the pulse emanating from piano and trombone pale into insignificance, but in its lustful logic cancel principles such as improvisation and composition.
Ultimately, everything is composed, only – to stay with Wogram’s comparison to soccer – the paths both must walk for each composition are very different. At times, the volley is composed from the playing, at others there are rehearsed set pieces that have been carefully prepared by the two musicians and composers. In the end, as they invent, they do not need to ask for directions. Wogram speaks of special moments that could not have been accomplished ad hoc. Together, they look over a panorama whose horizon goes far beyond the musical. That is why they succeed so well – as player personalities they recede behind their pieces and simply tell stories.
“Even in conventional performing situations he always finds magic” – that is how Wogram describes the approach of his duo partner. “Probably it is simply in his personality.” And Zulfikarpasic gives this observation back, almost literally, to Wogram. Only in one point do the two differ from the pianist’s point of view. “Nils was incredibly well prepared. I, however, delivered everything at the last minute. In this respect he is German, and I am Balkan. Well, it is good that there are also differences. But they cannot be heard on Housewarming.
Vertigo Trombone Quartet
Nils Wogram, Andreas Tschopp, Bernhard Bamert, Jan Schreiner
Who would like to write the same book twice? And why should you record the same CD twice? With the album The Good Life, the Vertigo Trombone Quartet winds up for the second blow, but it does not just pick up where the band started in 2014 with Developing Good Habits – rather it goes all the way back to the start again. The four trombonists – Nils Wogram, Andreas Tschopp, Bernhard Bamert and Jan Schreiner – not only act as performing musicians, but also take joint responsibility for the compositions. While the individual signatures of the four protagonists remain recognizable, the compositions play a much more prominent role than on the debut album. Or to say it with the words of Nils Wogram in a double sense for a trombone quartet: Everyone can voice his move.
The hallmark of the quartet’s second album is the unity, strength and rigor of their inner relationship to each other. Indeed, this cohesive force is based on a high density that has not been imposed externally by a preconceived plan, but has emerged from within. The band has decided against deliberately orienting itself to some plan – in order to keep their options open on all sides. This decision involved taking risks. Trusting in one’s own power and not giving it a common thread could eventually result in arbitrariness and eclecticism, or a lowest common denominator. But here, four musicians act on an equal footing. Instead of neutralizing themselves in the individual, they confidently work out their common strengths. All of the songs on the album came along with their awareness they were writing them for this squad. From the beginning, they focused on the common, on the connecting elements. And the calculation pays off, completely. Although they are four individual composers, the tracks as a whole seem like a suite planned in advance in this form. On their second album, the four members of the Vertigo Trombone Quartet turn out to be masters of intuitive collective stringency. The pieces of every composer are so harmoniously integrated into the creations of the other three members that the narrative thread is elegantly passed on from one composer to the other. Unlike popular jazz, where tension must first build up until the climax is achieved, the momentum on The Good Life reveals itself from the first note, and the tension does not break at any moment.
Some moments on the new CD sound like chamber music, others tend more towards jazz or ambient, in as much as one wants to orient oneself to such fixed genre points in the topography of the sounds. In addition, comparisons of a trombone quartet such as Vertigo with string, guitar or saxophone quartets are already doomed to limp before they even learn to walk. The Vertigo Trombone Quartet is neither the World Saxophone Quartet nor the Kronos Quartet. From the beginning, the question was how the quartet would go its own way. Ultimately, Wogram, Bamert, Tschopp and Schreiner have decided against tying themselves down to a specific style.
The four musicians move with the greatest possible freedom within the open-ended framework that they have genuinely created for themselves. Moreover, no other instrument is as similar to the human voice as the trombone. You can make something out of it. Unimagined intermediate and overtones result in the choir of the four blowpipes. Some remind us of strings, others of keyboards or percussion, especially as tuba, melodica and discreet percussion are used. In some moments, you even think you can hear a full big band.
By simultaneously accepting the limitations of their instrument and broadening the spectrum of its possibilities, the four great trombonists combine their voices to make the best of what music can be.
(…)bound up with tradition and modernity as well as complex, catchy and playful … and all along there’s Wogram himself, whose trombone remains in the service of the band sound in spite of his soloistic brilliance. … compelling, clear music, which is organically integrated in itself.
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly, 03/2017
Wogram´s phrasing is flawless and it feels as though there is no barrier between what he imagines and what he plays. (…) If you imagined yourself as a great jazz trombonist, this is how you´d want to sound.
Jonathan Carvell, londonjazznews.com, 11/2020
(…) leads his genre out of the retro trap. Drawing from the well of tradition, connected with the curiosity for discovery like an intrepid seafarer – this is what characterizes Nil Wogram’s work. … Wogram thinks … in long arcs. This doesn’t only apply to his soli, breathtaking in the truest sense of the word, but also and above all to the musical, interpersonal relationships in which he moves.
Die Welt, 2013
Nils Wogram is the dominant musician in this trio. In no time at at all he manages to become the favourite musician in the room, especially to those who grew up with Albert Mangelsdorff and thus appreciate a well-rounded, confident jazz trombonist steeped in tradition with an original profile as ancomposer as well. Wogram’s intoxicating, melodic and persevering way of phrasing, the elegant arches he constructs and structures with succinct rhythm, the immense technical difficulties he nonchalantly faces in the solo parts, his subtly nuanced, mostly soft and lyrical sound and the narrative characteristics of his play all contribute to this appreciation. This has little to do with nostalgia. This music is far too refined and far too present.
Frankfurter Rundschau, 11/2017