Julia Hülsmann Trio: The End of a Summer (ECM 2079)

The End of a Summer

Julia Hülsmann Trio
The End of a Summer

Julia Hülsmann piano
Marc Muellbauer double-bass
Heinrich Köbberling drums
Recorded March 2008 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The more I get of you
The stranger it feels
And now that your rose is in bloom
A light hits the gloom on the gray

From a long shoreline gentrified by Scandinavian jazz outfits, Julia Hülsmann’s all-German piano trio indeed hits the gloom on the gray with this sharp, lyrical ECM debut. The pianist tracks a robust set of ten tunes, most from her pen. Along for the journey are bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling, both of whom contribute equally to the trio’s refreshing democracy. To that democracy the opening title track pays express deference, coming into being like Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto before settling into a balanced conversation between inner and outer voices.

The focus of Hülsmann’s writing is matched only by her playing. Whether navigating the upbeat geometries of “Quint” (in which the unity achieved with her rhythm section is a wonder to behold) or floating on the breeze of the Jobim-inspired “Sepia,” she attends to every motivic bend in the road without need of compass. She is just as comfortable turning out stunning fractals of improvisation as she is flitting like a butterfly through nonetheless dense crosswinds (to wit: “Senza” and “Gelb,” respectively). Yet despite her independent spirit, she is most at ease forging on-the-spot connections with her bandmates. Exemplary in this regard is “Not The End Of The World,” which pulses behind a scrim of shadow and draws unity between Muellbauer and Hülsmann’s left hand (foiling the soft-focus sparkle of her right) while Köbberling works gorgeous curlicues at the snare’s rim.

Bassist and drummer also contribute material. Muellbauer’s relatively brief yet smooth nocturnal lines make “Last One Out” a memorable aside. Köbberling’s two offerings, “Konbanwa” and “Where In The World,” both speak in softer poetries, yet with majesty of emotion.

The latter track ends the album with a song for those who cannot sing, a love letter for those who cannot love. Its flow pulls at the heartstrings with a Midas touch, a kiss of the hand that follows wherever you may travel. Speaking of such, one can hardly ignore the trio’s evocative take on Seal’s iconic “Kiss From A Rose,” given new life for all its bareness. Likewise stripped is the engineering, which by the grace of the great Jan Erik Kongshaug mikes the musicians nakedly while also bringing out their inner ability to read the wind.

A must.

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