Julia Hülsmann Quartet: The Next Door

German pianist leads a pensive and thoughtful set of originals including a Chopin contrafact plus Prince’s Sometimes It Snows In April

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Following on from 2019’s well-received Not Far From Here, Julia Hülsmann returns with the same quartet to deliver an equally intense and rewarding new set, this one extensively worked-in on the road, despite the intervening lockdown. That was time well-spent, for it enabled the quartet to develop their rapport and become even more intuitive and supportive of each other. All four members contribute songs, with Prince’s Sometimes It Snows In April the sole outsider. 

As ever, the mood is pensive and thoughtful, with the opening Empty Hands, for example, a blank canvas on which gentle melodies and a delicate accompaniment are sketched out. Made Of Wood is at times almost abstract in its melodic development, as is the rubato Polychrome.

Such complexity makes one pause and listen all the harder, a necessary approach for the twisty melody of both versions of Jetzt Noch Nicht and the buzzing Wasp At The Window. The mood changes for the bossa nova Valdemossa, which is based on the harmonies of a Chopin prelude, and for the delightfully light, laid-back version of the Prince song. 

Other than the leader – ever fluent and interesting – the dominant voice throughout is saxophonist Ule Kempendorff, whose thoughtful, evocative statements gets under the skin of each piece. The light touch of drummer Heinrich Köbberling is a constant presence, the bass lines of Marc Muelibauer always solid and informative. But it is right to say that this is a group of equals, whose intelligent music-making has produced another fine set.

Discography
Empty Hands; Made Of Wood; Polychrome; Wasp At The Window; Jetzt Noch Nicht; Lightcap; Sometimes It Snows In April; Open Up; Jetzt Noch Nicht (var); Post Post Post; Fluid; Valdemossa (60.10)
Hülsmann (p); Ule Kempendorff (ts); Marc Muelibauer (b); Heinrich Köbberling (d). Pernes-les-Fontaines, Vaucluse, France, March 2022.
ECM Records 4807370