Artist: Nils Wulker & Arne Jansen
Label: WM Germany
Year Of Release: 2023
Format: FLAC (tracks)
02. Nika’s Dream
03. Deep Dive
05. Beyond the Bavarian Sky
06. He Who Counts the Stars
07. It Won’t Be Long
08. So Close to You
09. The Great He-Goat
10. Let’s Go Out Tonight
Harmony and tension, softness and strength – rarely are contrasts as noticeable and close as in a couple. In the active dialogue of the musical duo, in the constant give and take, listening and communicating, demanding and supporting, the two ECHO jazz award winners Nils Wülker and Arne Jansen now invite us to their first joint duo album. The ten tracks on “Closer” are wonderfully different and pleasantly surprising, telling exciting stories with new original compositions, interpretations from the repertoire of the two leaders and covers of some of their favorite pop and rock songs, from Nine Inch Nails to Ry X to The Blue Nile. With every note, they win over the listeners, accompanying them on a journey through new and exciting soundscapes like good friends. Sometimes empathetic and intimate, then again cinematic and atmospherically dense, from the ultimate reduction in a duet to an almost orchestral sound, the two exceptional musicians and close friends explore what they have in common and live out their peculiarities in the music on “Closer”. It doesn’t get any closer than that.
Trumpeter Nils Wülker and his guitar colleague Arne Jansen have known each other for well over twenty years, and they have been making music together for almost fifteen of those years. In addition to the enormous artistic quality, they have always been linked by their love of improvisation, this direct creativity through which they determine the moment in reaction and interaction. In 2019, Wülker and Jansen played a Germany-wide duo tour under the name “Closer”. “Only friends can do it like that” praised the press on the occasion of their concentrated joy of playing, recognizing “weightless jazz dialogues” as well as “virtuosity and ballad-like calm”, also because they supplemented their main instruments with plenty of effects and loop stations in this context. With “Closer”, the seventh album on which they can be heard together, they now bring this matter of the heart to the point.
Even the opener is a statement: Johnny Cash’s dark version of “Hurt”, originally by Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails, served as inspiration for their very personal digression, initially raw and direct, it gradually increases three minutes with delays, reverb and distortion in pleasant intensity. It is a pleasure to listen to the two musicians, to lose themselves in their sound worlds, when they reduce the melodious intoxication “Nika’s Dream”, dedicated to Wülker’s daughter and a recent highlight on Wülker’s orchestral album “Continuum”, to its musical essence, less opulent , no less impressive. Even when they alternate in the role of soloist and accompanist, for example in the funky “Deep Dive” or their version of The Blue Nile’s melancholic “Let’s Go Out Tonight”, their musical closeness is transmitted very directly. “Beyond the Bavarian Sky”, an anthemic new composition by Nils Wülker, purely with flugelhorn and acoustic guitar, is a tribute to one of the most beautiful duo albums in modern jazz history: Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden’s “Beyond the Missouri Sky”.
Which brings us to another important theme of the album: its great sound. Because Nils Wülker and Arne Jansen made no compromises in terms of sound either: Nils Wülker recorded the album himself in his Ear Treat Studio in Munich, mixed by the American Grammy winner Jay Newland, known for his work for Norah Jones, John
Scofield and of course the aforementioned duo album Beyond the Missouri Sky, and finally mastered by Mark Wilder, who got his Grammys for remasters by Miles Davis, Billie Holiday or Bob Dylan, at New York’s Battery Studios. The whole is much more than the sum of the parts, a diversity and abundance of sounds and moods that fascinates and touches in equal measure. A real experience that you can directly participate in just by listening.