Julia Hülsmann Trio
Available languages: EnglishJazz singer, songwriter, composer, and pianist Julia Hülsmann creates an intelligent and incisive brand of poetic and artful vocal and piano jazz that has brought her tremendous critical respect in her native country and Europe at large, but precious little exposure on the western side of the Atlantic. Her primary trio with bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Rainer Winch (Winch was eventually replaced in the trio by Heinrich Köbberling on drums) issued Trio on BIT Records in 2003 and Scattering Poems, with vocalist Rebekka Bakken, on the German label ACT that same year. She issued two more recordings for the label in the setting with different vocalists. Hülsmann moved to ECM in 2008 and issued a trio outing (The End of a Summer) and a co-led Fasil, a quintet date with guitarist Marc Sinan. Since 2013, she has periodically toured and recorded with a quartet on albums such as Full View and 2014's A Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill and America. She returned to the trio format for Sooner and Later in 2016. Born in Bonn, Germany in 1968, Hülsmann took classical piano lessons from the age of 11 and started her first band at 16. In 1991, she moved to Berlin to study jazz piano and piano pedagogy at the University of the Arts (HdK). Her teachers include Walter Norris, Aki Takase, and David Friedman. In particular, she was inspired and influenced by U.S. pianist and composer Don Grolnick. In 1992, Hülsmann joined the Federal Youth Jazz Orchestra, then directed by Peter Herbolzheimer. After graduating in 1996, she founded the Julia Hülsmann Trio with bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Rainer Winch. The trio played music at various festivals and smaller tours. In early 2000, Hülsmann went to New York, where she studied and took lessons with Richie Beirach, Maria Schneider, Gil Goldstein, and Jane Ira Bloom. At a Wolfgang Muthspiel concert, she got to know the Norwegian singer Rebekka Bakken. Hülsmann began composing for her and released her debut, Trio, at the end of year. After composing, finding suitable lyrics for a vocal project began. She eventually discovered the poet e.e. cummings. The pianist persuaded Bakken to be part of her project, and in 2003 the album Scattering Poems appeared from ACT. It spent several weeks in the Top 10 on the German jazz charts. Although she is an accomplished songwriter, Hülsmann's work has often tended toward interpretation, and she has done intriguing reconfigurations of the songs of Randy Newman, Nick Drake, and Sting, and has provided striking jazz soundscapes for the poems of e.e. cummings and Emily Dickinson. Come Closer, with vocalist Anna Lauvergnac, was released in 2004 by ACT, followed by Good Morning Midnight, featuring singer Roger Cicero, in 2006. Hülsmann reverted to a straight trio for her first two ECM recordings, The End of a Summer, which appeared in 2008, and Imprint, which followed in 2011. In 2013, Hülsmann released her first quartet album, In Full View, featuring British trumpeter Tom Arthurs. She did the international festival circuit while conceiving a new project based on the songs of Kurt Weill. Her trio -- with Marc Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Köbberling on drums -- was again appended by Arthurs and the voice of Theo Bleckman. She radically reconfigured nine Weill tunes and three settings of poems by Walt Whitman, and created what amounted to a concerto for the two additional members. The resulting album, Clear Midnight/Kurt Weill & America, was released by ECM in 2015, earning rave reviews and an international tour. Hülsmann, Muellbauer, and Köbberling toured the world playing on stages across Europe and North America, as well as Peru, Central Asia, and China. The experience of that tour was made clear to listeners on 2017's trio outing Sooner and Later. The influence of the journey can be heard on "Biz Joluktuk," a tune the band heard performed by a 12-year-old violinist in Kyrgyzstan; it was later re-harmonized by Hülsmann. The long-lived quartet once again expanded to a quartet with Berlin-based saxophonist Uli Kempendorff for Not Far from Here, issued in November of 2019. It included five new Hülsmann compositions as well as a cover of "This Is Not America," co-composed by David Bowie, Pat Metheny, and Lyle Mays. It appeared in both a quartet version and a solo piano variation.
© Steve Leggett /TiVo
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