Julia Hülsmann: The Next Door

Album cover art for upc 602448073709
Label: ECM
Catalog: B003648702
Format: CD

"Our different roles in the quartet are more open and free-form than in the trio. Even though there is an additional musician, it is not necessary to strictly assign tasks. I can move freely on the piano, switch from unison lines to melodic accompaniment, and then transition into a bass line - all seamlessly, because we are always listening to each other. That is our top priority" - Julia Hülsmann For "The Next Door," Julia Hülsmann joined the same lineup from her last album, "Not Far From Here" (2019), at La Buissonne Studios to document the group's intense interplay, honed even more finely on tour. The Guardian called the quartet's debut "a tour de force, for its unobtrusive reinvention of the familiar and its cool virtuosity" and spoke of "smart, thoughtful, curious contemporary jazz music." These virtues have been sharpened again and new idioms added on the quartet's second album, with each member - tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff, Heinrich Köbberling on drums, Marc Muellbauer on bass and Julia - contributing original compositions. "Since the last album, we've been on the road a lot," Julia notes. "We've had time to develop our rapport as a quartet, and as a result, our interplay has become even more intuitive." Even when most live activities were temporarily suspended, Julia and her quartet participated in alternative performance projects and spent many weeks in intensive rehearsals of new material. The result of their work, captured on this album, is as multifaceted as it is uncompromising, with an emphasis on intimate ensemble interplay. Borrowings in the jazz tradition, locatable between the modal conventions of the '60s and post-bop, run like a thread through "The Next Door," but what really stands out is the way the group handles these influences and makes them their own. "Empty Hands," the thoughtful introductory piece, presents itself as a white canvas that is gradually filled in with delicate keystrokes, searching melodies and gentle accompaniment. Julia, who wrote the song, says, "When your hands are full you have to juggle a lot of things, you have your hands full with it. I come up empty-handed. Is that good or bad? With empty hands you bring supposedly nothing, but actually you can also see it as that you have all the possibilities open to create something new." "Made of Wood" sets itself apart from this impressionistic approach with an earthy tone, embedded in a modal framework and propelled by straightforward swing: "I keep feeling the need to write something reliable and solid, perhaps conciliatory, at the moment. This piece relates to my inner base, which I like to think of as something woody and warm." The pianist's brief duo exposition in exchange with saxophonist Uli Kempendorff on "Jetzt Noch Nicht" - later reinterpreted as a variation with all members of the group - reveals an atmospheric theme, with a self-wrapping melody that invites the most expressive playing from all participants. On Julia's "Fluid," the band reveals itself as a compact, buoyant unit in a mesmerizing performance of a gentle, steadily rising arc: "This piece is based on the dense, flat piano sound that kicks in at minute 1: 00. Over this flowing carpet, melodies can emerge and continue to flow in waves. Water is an important element for me that keeps coming up in my paintings." Uli's full tone complements Julia's trio with exceptional warmth and forms a natural symbiosis with the pianist's sensitive touch; his own piece, "Open Up," is one of the highlights of the set: "When writing 'Open Up,' all I cared about was the line and its forward motion. It meanders through three octaves, prancing and unwieldy at the same time. The written-out bass line offers it counterpoint, and piano and drums are free to join in or comment. The vamp for the solos is quite simple, but offers many possibilities for rhythmic overlays and reinterpretations. So you can always make offerings as you play. I like how the band conducts this with a light hand, how everyone / m always giving themselves room for accents that can initiate changes in direction." Marc Muellbauer's compositional contributions go through various pulsations - "Polychrome" is a rubato piece built around a diatonic melody that wants to escape its tonal framework. On "Wasp at the Window," however, the group unites in an extended nine-eighths time ostinato that bends and arcs to the quartet's will. Marc wrote the bossa nova "Valdemossa" in reference to composer Frédéric Chopin: "'Valdemossa' was written based on the harmony of Chopin's well-known Prelude No. 4 in E minor from his cycle of 24 Preludes, Op. 28. I wrote a new melody on it that expands the chromatic suggestions of the chord progression and uses its ambiguity to modulate into two distant keys. The name refers to the wonderful place in Mallorca where Chopin composed the piece." Drummer Heinrich Köbberling's first piece on the program, "Lightcap," is playfully deconstructed and initially reminiscent of Paul Motian's sketch-like compositional art. In fact, the piece is inspired by Köbberling's early trio ventures in the 1990s with saxophonist Lisa Parrott and bassist Chris Lightcap - hence the title. The drummer's other composition is "Post Post Post" - a subtle group improvisation with a veiled melody that has been on the drummer's mind for years. As usual for Julia's albums, Prince's "Sometimes it Snows in April" is a well-known pop song that has been given a new look. The track's catchy melody, immediate harmonic hook and relaxed groove are explored attentively by the entire band, with Julia's haunting keyboard sensibilities taking center stage. "The Next Door" was recorded in March 2022 at La Buissonne studios in the south of France and will be released in time for the quartet's European tour with concerts in Germany, Switzerland, Austria a

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