Thursday, September 29, 2022

Julia Hülsmann’s New Quartet Album on ECM

Marc Muellbauer, Heinrich Köbberling, and Uli Kempendorff standing behind Julia Hülsmann (photograph by Peter Hundert, courtesy of ECM Records)

I first encountered jazz pianist Julia Hülsmann in 2011 during my tenure with Examiner.com. I wrote about her second ECM release, Imprint, a trio album on which she performed with bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling. By 2019 she had expanded her group to a quartet, adding tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff on the album Not Far From Here. That quartet will return tomorrow with its latest ECM offering, The Next Door. For those that want to be “first on the block,” Amazon.com currently has a Web page for processing pre-orders.

Hülsmann’s trio performances could venture into a prodigious variety of rhetorical dispositions while maintaining a relatively subdued foundation. To some extent that foundation evolved with the addition of Kempendorff’s saxophone. While Kempendorff is clearly at home with under-spoken rhetoric, the saxophone, by its very nature, is not as “subdued” as any of the trio instruments. Therefore, it should be no surprise that his one contribution as a composer is a track entitled “Open Up.” To some extent his saxophone work on this track recalls some of the improvised embellishments encountered in Charlie Parker solos; but the jazz performed by the entire quartet is a far cry from the more rambunctious bebop era.

Nevertheless, there are times when I am more inclined to quietude in my jazz listening. Hülsmann’s albums definitely have a calming influence on me without devolving into self-indulgent introspection. I am glad that I am now in a position to take advantage of both her trio and her quartet work, leaving me with more than a little curiosity as to where her music-making will take her next.