Julia Hülsmann Quartet, The Next Door Review
by Ferell Aubre
Julia Hülsmann returns with The Next Door, which features the quartet from her 2019 album, Not Far From Here. The quartet has a long history of working together, and that elevates the music of almost exclusively original music composed by Hülsmann and her colleagues. The quartet includes Hülsmann on piano, tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff, Marc Muellbauer on double bass, and drummer Heinrich Köbberling. The quartet has a natural flow and chemistry and presents a jazz language combining the European jazz tradition melded with the American jazz of the 60s, especially post-bop and modal jazz. The most satisfying element of the album, though, is the quartet’s highly expressive soloing and song development, which directly result from their profound interplay.
The interaction and quartet’s capacity to grow a composition over time is evident in the opening Hülsmann’s original, “Empty Hands.” The piano leads as the ensemble layers in and develops the density and interactions. Each player contributes to the growth, each having moments to shine and moments to support. The shifting piano figure is indicative of Hülsmann’s piano style, and her playing is as melodic and well-paced as ever.
“Post Post Post” is a Köbberling original and has its inspiration in Bill Evans’ composition “Peace Piece.” The piano and saxophone meld on certain sections of the melody to form a beautiful color, as does the bass, saxophone, and piano, or at times bass and saxophone. Muellbauer’s lyrical bass solo is supported by Köbberling’s light brushwork and Hülsmann’s gorgeous chordal voicings. The mood is introspective but expressive as this quartet journeys through the possibilities of the composition’s harmonic structures, searching, listening, and expressing through their musical conversations.
The Next Door is Hülsmann’s eighth release on the ECM label and continues her catalog of profoundly expressive and interactive recordings. She observes, “We’ve had time to further develop our rapport as a quartet, and, as a result, our interplay has become even more intuitive.” That is true, and that fluidity of interaction takes the music contained in The Next Door to places only possible by such a rapport.