Sat Oct. 1, 2022

Julia Hülsmann Quartet (D)

Julia Hülsmann: piano
Uli Kempendorff: tenor saxophone
Marc Muellbauer: bass
Heinrich Köbberling: drums

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…) for understated reinvention of the familiar, cool virtuosity, and the seductive ECM sense of a long gestation preceding and succeeding the recording, German pianist and composer Julia Hülsmann´s Not Far from Here is a standout. Hülsmann, who has been releasing subtle ECM gems with trio partners Marc Muellbauer and Heinrich Köbberling on bass and drums for a decade, has now added traditional-to-freeblasting Berlin tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff. The set´s only cover is David Bowie´s This Is Not America, with Kempendorff taking a group version from stealthy insinuation to confrontational split-note wailing, and Hülsmann developing an unaccompanied account as plaintive harmony-shifts against a solemnly tapping repeated note. Sometimes it feels like the 1950s Cool School and Miles Davis´s mid-60s group have become conjoined (notably on Muellbauer´s zigzagging Le Mistral); Hülsmann´s title track is a gently enigmatic sax/piano theme over a soft bass vamp. There are also tender ballads, drum-pattern riddles that turn into swing, and Muellbauer´s Wrong Song is a film nor-like harmony that becomes a sax turmoil. It´s clever, thoughtful, inquisitively contemporary jazzmaking, right in the ECM ballpark.