Julia Hülsmann Trio – Imprint (2011)

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Photo: Volker Beushausen

German pianist Julia Hülsmann has made her mark with trio jazz fronted with a vocalist, either male or female, but had returned to the instrumental three when she signed up with ECM and recorded her first album with them, The End Of A Summer (2008). Now comes the follow-up three years later with Imprint. Hülsmann is accomplished as both an interpreter and a composer in her own right, but for this album she generously provides space for contributions from her bandmates Marc Muellbauer (double-bass) and Heinrich Köbberling (drums) alongside her own new originals.

From this record at least, it’s clear Ms. Hülsmann has found a comfy home in the label of fellow German Manfred Eicher: she places an equal emphasis on space and ambience, as much as improvisation. With Eicher behind the controls, her piano shimmers with the thoughtful cadence of chamber music but also the freedom afforded by jazz. Most songs are low key and require close listening to fully appreciate what’s going on, although all the tracks are without question bearing that ECM signature sound.

“Grand Canyon” gets going at a stronger pace than the other selections, a cyclical melody that Hülsmann exploits with delicate phrasing, and avoids being overbearing. “(Go And Open) The Door” (video below) takes a different tact, revisiting a theme at certain intervals and varying momentum that’s paced by Köbberling, whose drumming style is very evocative of the ECM signature percussionist, Jon Christensen.

All through the album, you can find plenty of democracy going on; Muellbauer gets a major role shaping the harmonics on “A Light Left On” and constructs a gently lyrical solo that effortlessly blends into Hülsmann’s. They even double up on the thematic line for Köbberling’s “Storm In A Teacup.”

Released March 29, Imprint is underscores the lofty principles behind the classic acoustic ECM sonic footprint. Though there’s almost no intervals of sustained energy, it’s quiet majesty is a sound that never gets old with me, and the Julia Hülsmann Trio is as good of a practitioner of that asthetic as I’ve heard from just about anyone in recent years.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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