Nils Wogram

NILS WOGRAM   trombone

Root 70

with

HAYDEN CHISHOLM   alto saxophone

MATT PENMAN   bass

JOCHEN RÜCKERT   drums

Nils Wogram & Bojan Z

with

BOJAN Z   piano

Nils_Wogram(by_Ayse_Yavas)_kl

Nostalgia

with

ARNO KRIJGER  hammond, pedals

DEJAN TERZIC  drums

Septet

with

CLAUDIO PUNTIN  clarinet

TILMAN EHRHORN  tenor sax

STEPHAN MEINBERG  trumpet

STEFFEN SCHORN  bass clarinet

FRANK SPEER  alto sax

JOHN SCHRÖDER  drums

Solo

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.

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Nostalgia Trio

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.

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Root 70

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.

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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.

NW_BojanZ_by_Corinne_Haechler

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.

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Septet

Nils Wogram is a master of small formats – duos, trios and quartets are his domains. But eleven years ago he proved that he has quite a bit to say in the sextet and octet on the CD Odd and Awkward. Back then, the multi-reed player Steffen Schorn was along for the ride. He is on board again on Wogram’s newest CD, Complete Soul, this time in a septet. In addition, clarinetist Claudio Puntin, trumpeter Matthias Schriefl, the saxophonists Frank Speer and Tilman Ehrhorn as well as drummer John Schröder have also made this rendezvous.

Wogram’s approach on Complete Soul stands out in strong contrast to that of bands such as Roots 70 or Nostalgia. Normally, he writes the parts for his co-players, into their instruments; in other words, he sets their strengths to music, tailor-made. This time, however, he had a complex overall sound in his head, assembled like an organ made up of many horns, and then searched for the people who could fill out this sound with their personalities. As a tonal ideal, Nils Wogram had the sound of Miles Davis‘ classic Birth of the Cool in mind. Not to simply imitate it stylistically, but rather to transfer a common, shrouded brass sound, borne by top soloists. 

 

That the participants in this production apparently hold themselves back is all the more astounding given the fact of who they are: the protagonists who definitively characterize – by how they perform and play – the image of German jazz today; musicians one recognizes, one perceives as themselves in any context. This circumstance is also something Complete Soul and Birth of the Cool have in common. Wogram has formed a perfect chamber ensemble with these leading figures of contemporary jazz. 

 

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But Complete Soul is not a trombone record with enriched brass accompaniment. The leader steps so far back in the background that one occasionally forgets who plays trombone at all; he is, first and foremost, composer and organizer of sound. This distinguishes this septet from his other projects. Wogram is more interested in mutual respect among the participants. He is searching for a relaxed matter-of-course that leaves behind the permanently hierarchical and mercantile competition that has horribly overloaded jazz. Here, it is a matter of perceiving the music as a whole. 

We can call Complete Soul a great album, without a false sense of shame. It is a massive step in the creative work of one of today’s most versatile and productive German jazz musicians and joins company with a tradition that has once before opened its gates wide to European jazz. Above all, it is a wonderfully beautiful, light and yet deep piece of music, which demands to be heard and heard again.

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(…)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