Julia Hülsmann Quartet – In Full View (2013)

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With a couple of rock solid trio records for ECM Records under her belt, the jazz pianist from Bonn, Germany undertakes something a little different for her third go around with the storied label. Julia Hülsmann caught a performance by the English trumpeter Tom Arthurs at his adopted Berlin and found his music so compelling, she promptly proposed that they collaborate. Her initial impulse validated within the first few rehearsals, Arthurs ended up expanding Hülsmann’s trio — which includes Marc Muellbauer on double-bass and Heinrich Köbberling on drums — into a quartet.

In Full View is the first fruit to bear on record from Julia Hülsmann Trio plus One, aka the Julia Hülsmann Quartet. The title reflects Hülsmann’s new, wider perspective gained from the introduction of a performer with whom she can share the task of portraying the melody. “With an extra melody player I can devise my accompaniment differently on the piano,” she points out. “I can make my chords more wide, use different registers without getting in my own way.”

Arthurs is also a master of the flugelhorn, but his trumpet tone is so velvety, it’s often hard to tell which brass he chose to play for each of these thirteen selections, most of which were contributed individually by every member of the expanded group. Regardless, his tender, thoughtful touch has found a welcome home in Hülsmann’s world, one full of discreet turns and strategies that reaches for modernity beyond the basic standards trio/quartet and follows in the European tradition of chamber-tinged small group jazz.

The crucial aspects of In Full View is how well does the trio adapt to Arthurs and in their typically meticulous way, they integrate him rather well. “Quicksilver” begins with Hülsmann combining with Muellbauer on establishing a low harmonic figure, enabling Arthurs to enter the song with the parameters clearly established. The pianist then pivots over the role of providing counterpoints to Arthurs, making it clear from the beginning that a rapport critical for making the quartet a new, meaningful entity apart from the trio is established.

Hülsmann’s role is altered much in the way she outlined in her comments above, taking advantage of the extended range of options now available to her. She responds to every subtle move of Arthur’s muted trumpet expressions before combining with it on an extended unison figure (“Gleim”), share in the task of articulating the harmony with Arthurs (“Forever Old”) and more incredibly, syncs up her left hand to a syncopated groove of the rhythm section while her right hand is interplaying with Arthurs (“Dedication”).

Ballads like “Snow, Melting” become a display for Arthur’s gorgeous, unbroken tone, which Hülsmann and Muellbauer enhance with a soft, harmonic underpinning.

Other facets of these performances are signatures of the trio, especially in the cagey way they swing with 5/4 meters on pieces such as “Forever Old” and “Meander,” and the layered, slippery rhythms employed on “In Full View,” where Köbberling and Muellbauer always seem to know where each other is going before they get there.

Hülsmann’s appreciation for a simple, direct melody manifests itself on her minimal, unhurried adaptation of Feist’s “The Water,” where Arthurs sits out. Her graceful, thoughtful and probing style is also prominent in solo turns during “Forgotten Poetry” and “Speil.”

Nothing wrong at all with Julia Hülsmann’s trio records, but the addition of Tom Arthurs to the band revealed itself to be a good way to head off artistic stagnation before it can begin. Her intuition culminated with an album that doesn’t change her musical direction, but bolsters her current one.

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In Full View was released in June on ECM Records.

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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