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Nils Wülker

Like his best-selling fellow countryman Till Brönner, German trumpet player Nils Wülker reached the pop charts with his accessible jazz records. But where Brönner moves between several distinctive styles, Wülker's sound is generally more fusion-based, combining his soft, clear trumpet tone with pop, electronic music, smooth funk, and some sonic experimentation into an engaging whole. After establishing himself with several well-received albums on his own Ear Treat label, including the gold record-winning Safely Falling (2007) and Just Here, Just Now (2012), Wülker signed with Warner and released a widely noticed trio of albums with guest stars like Jill Scott, Craig Armstrong, Marteria, and Theo Croker: Up (2015), On (2017), and Go (2020). He continued to explore new modes with his orchestral record Continuum (2022) and a duo album with his longtime creative partner guitarist Arne Jansen, Closer (2023). Born in August 1977 in Germany's then-capital Bonn, Nils Wülker started playing the piano at the age of seven and the trumpet at the age of ten in a classical context. At 16, while in the U.S. in an exchange program, he discovered US3's hit "Cantaloop," which led him to the records of Miles Davis. Back in Germany, he joined the JugendJazzOrchester NRW (Youth Jazz Orchestra North Rhine-Westphalia), and after graduating from school, he enrolled at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin. While still a student, he played in his mentor Nicolai Thärichen's ensemble Thärichens Tentett, and performed with the Bundesjazzorchester, the RIAS Big Band, and the Judy Niemack Group. Before graduating in 2002, Wülker recorded his debut album, High Spirits, which became Sony Music's first release by a German jazz musician. The attention led to an assignment to compose music for Space Night, a nightly German TV program which combines space photography with appropriately cosmic music. Where the accompanying album series focused mainly on chill-out tracks, Wülker's Space Night, Vol. 10 (2003) had more of a jazz foundation. Soon after, the trumpeter formed his own label, Ear Treat Music, through which he released a string of albums with his own group. My Game (2005) featured guest spots for Torun Eriksen, and Safely Falling (2007) had contributions from Silje Nergaard and Sting guitarist Dominic Miller, with the latter appearing again on Turning the Page (2008). On Wülker's sixth album, 6 (2010), he played guitar and bass and added his own vocals to some tunes. In 2011, he became the ensemble leader at the annual JazzBaltica Festival, working with colleagues like Michael Wollny, Dave Douglas, and Donny McCaslin. A year after the release of his next album, Just Here, Just Now (2012), he won an Echo Jazz Award for National Brass Instrumentalist of the Year. Wülker was then signed by Warner, and his first major-label album, Up (2015), was a star-studded affair that featured guests like Jill Scott, Xavier Naidoo, Craig Armstrong, David McAlmont, and Max Mutzke, with more pop- and soul-leaning productions that propelled the record to number 55 on the German album charts. He made some changes with 2017's On -- with hip-hop producers the Krauts and featuring German rap star Marteria -- and Go (2020), with more electronic fusion and a guest appearance by Theo Croker. Both reached the German Top 40. In between, Wülker released his first concert album, Decade Live (2018), while also keeping himself busy hosting his own monthly radio show, Offbeat, between 2017 and 2020. For 2022's Continuum, Wülker collaborated with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester (Munich Radio Orchestra) and took a more orchestral approach. As a counterpart to the record's large-scale canvas, he recorded a duo album with guitarist Arne Jansen, who had been part of Wülker's group for years. Released in February 2023, Closer, which featured intimate renditions of older songs, some covers such as Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," and a few new compositions, reached number 15 on the German album charts. Later the same year, Wülker released the similarly quiet EP Rays of Winter Sun, recorded with pianist Tim Allhoff and, on some tracks, bassist Sven Faller.
© Christian Genzel /TiVo


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