Julia Hülsmann

Julia Hülsmann

JULIA HÜLSMANN  piano solo




Last Chance To Misbehave




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Julia Hülsmann Trio


MARC MUELLBAUER   double bass




ULI KEMPENDORFF  tenor saxophone

Beatles Project



BEN MONDER  guitar

Stagnation is a foreign word to Julia Hülsmann. With her trio, which has influenced the contemporary jazz of  Germany with its essential and wonderfully open style, she has released the album “Sooner And Later” (ECM) just two years ago. After the pianist had repeatedly expanded the trio with instrumentalists or  vocalists, it was time to return to the origins and to turn into music  the many journeys the  trio had had together. “Far from any sentimentalism, sounds and sound sequences are blossoming in a magical field of tension between sobriety and delirious enthusiasm” RONDO  stated in March 2017 and thus perfectly captured the character of “Sooner and Later”.

For her seventh album with ECM Julia Hülsmann had a new timbre in mind, which Uli Kempendorff contributes on tenor saxophone. All three musicians have known him for many years, have played with him in many different constellations. Although Kempendorff and his own band are rather at home in the avantgarde, he cannot be pigeonholed due to his open mind and his curiosity. It may be because of his openness, or because similar musical ways of thinking came together, or because over the many years of playing together, a friendship has developed between the four – the edgy and austere beauty of his tone fits the trio so well that you might think this quartet has always existed.

Julia Hülsmann has managed to remain true to herself whilst taking her band`s sound to a new level and keeping it suspenseful. It is an immense pleasure to be witness to this permanent transformation and advancement.

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It would be hard to imagine German jazz without Julia Hülsmann and her trio, who for 16 years now have never failed to impress, and have helped shape contemporary jazz in this country and beyond.

Pianist Hülsmann’s trio, which also includes bass player Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling has an enormous range of musical expression at its disposal, yet their style remains distinctive: essential, condensed but at the same time with a wonderful openness.

After the overwhelming success of their album „The End of a Summer“ (ECM, 2008), three years later the trio released their next album „Imprint“ (ECM, 2011) which manifests the trio’s musical character and features great intensity and explicitness. The music is vocal and every note is in the right place, and  fundamentally relaxed whilst never lacking driving grooves.

With her sixth ECM album”Sooner and Later”, Julia Hülsmann returns to the trio format after a lot of non-trio activities such as the concerts supporting the quartet recording (In Full View, ECM, 2013) and the quintet album featuring singer Theo Bleckmann (A Clear Midnight – Kurt Weill and America, ECM, 2015).

But, as the pianist is ready to point out, not only were her partners in the trio, bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling, involved in most of these ventures, in between them the trio undertook extensive travels to distant destinations – among them the US, Canada, Peru, Central Asia and China – „there something special developed within the trio. When traveling you not only gain new perspectives, but also experience even long standing partners anew. It helped to open up new sonic territory for us.“

„Sooner And Later“ was recorded in september 2016 at the Rainbow Studio Oslo and produced by Manfred Eicher. 


Concentrated female energy is promised by Julia Hülsmann’s new project “Last Chance To Misbehave” with  singers Ayse Cansu Tanrikulu and Mia Knop Jacobsen.

So on one stage united are :

A pianist/composer who soon is to release her 7th album for ECM and has been a figurehead of German contemporary jazz for years,
a singer/composer/performer from Ankara, who has become an important part of the Berlin jazz and improvisation scene and is known for her unusual and rule breaking conception of new projects,
and a Danish singer/composer who is at home in both jazz and alternative rock/pop, traveling internationally with her own projects, and also performing on stage as a backing vocalist with musicians such as Quincy Jones, George Benson and Jacob Collier.

Once again, Julia Hülsmann proves her great instinct for selecting voices  she would like to work with, bringing together two completely different and yet perfectly attuned  singers. This women’s trio creates a musical cosmos around poetry, lyrical images and landscapes, moving freely within the surprisingly generous frame that two voices and a singing piano can set.

Each member composes specifically for this instrumentation. The very different compositional styles of the individual band members flow together to create a unified band sound, which is reflected in the original compositions and occasional cover songs – whilst the latter ones are given a new and often ironic and ambiguous touch. The focus is on originality, and the trio creates music between jazz, folk and experimental music while working with lyrics from Shakespeare to Beaumont – a unique style that hasn´t been heard before.

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For Deutsches Jazz Festival Frankfurt 2016 Julia Hülsmann took on a great challenge: to reinterpret the songs of the Beatles.

This proposal caused good but also mixed feelings – “I’ve always been a Beatles fan and grew up with their music” – also she had concerns, whether that would not have been tried too often and if the originals were not too strong. In fact, many jazz musicians have worked their way through this canon without finding the right approach. The original often disappeared under the weight of harmonious abstraction or virtuoso improvisation, and often the swinging appropriation stayed far away of the creative genius of the original. With Hülsmann neither one nor the other is to be feared. “Rather than herself, she stages others,” remarked Peter Rüedi once in DIE ZEIT.

Julia Hülsmann chose Theo Bleckmann for joining her trio again – she believed, “Theo is one who can sing the Beatles songs anew.”

The guitar sounds that are somehow indispensable for a Beatles project are provided by Ben Monder. The subtle New Yorker with his delicate sound language between “electric bebop” and ethereal soundscapes has not only accompanied jazz stars like Paul Motian or Lee Konitz, but also contributed the guitar parts to David Bowie’s album “Blackstar” and has had formed a creative tandem with Theo Bleckmann for many years.

With this exquisite team, Julia Hülsmann brings the songs of the Beatles back to life from the perspective of today’s jazz and provides a “musical-poetic moment of glory with a lyrical expression that is seldom experienced. (…)” (Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2016)

Beatles Projekt JH Frankfurt 29.10.16

copyright hr/Sasha Rheker

Julia Hülsmann (born in 1968 in Bonn) began playing piano at the age of 11. She formed her first band at the age of 16. In 1991 she moved to Berlin, and played in the Bundesjugendjazzorchestra under the direction of Peter Herbolzheimer. Recordings under her name have included collaborations with Roger Cicero, Rebekka Bakken, and Anna Lauvergnac.

With „A Clear Midnight“ Theo Bleckmann made his ECM debut in a jazz context. He was born in 1966 in Dortmund and relocated to New York City 1989 after having met vocalist Sheila Jordan who remained an influential mentor and musical partner for him. His vocal bandwidth reaches from Charles Ives to Kate Bush songs and Shakespeare sonettes. In June 2015 he performed as “Artist in Residence” in New York´s “The Stone” in different constellations, also with the Hülsmann Quartet. In 2017 he made his ECM debut as a leader with „Elegy“.

Bassist Marc Muellbauer (born in London in 1968) also leads his own nine-piece band, Kaleidoscope and founded the Wood & Steel Trio. He has a wide musical background ranging from contemporary classical to tango, as well as jazz with diverse formations. Currently he is also a member of the Lisbeth Quartett. Muellbauer teaches double-bass at the Jazzinstitut Berlin.

A musician in the New York City area for over 30 years, Ben Monder has performed with a wide variety of artists. He also contributed guitar parts to the last David Bowie album, “Blackstar”. Ben conducts clinics and workshops around the world, and has served on the faculties of the New England Conservatory, NYU and the New School. Ben continues to perform original music internationally in solo and trio settings, and in a long standing duo project with Theo Bleckmann.

Drummer Heinrich Köbberling (born in Bad Arolsen/Hessen in 1967) has worked with Aki Takase, Ernie Watts, Anat Fort, Richie Beirach and many others: he has played on around 50 jazz albums. A 1997 leader date, “Pisces” included Marc Johnson and Ben Monder as sidemen. Köbberling teaches drums at the FMB Conservatory in Leipzig.

Christopher Dell studied vibraphone, drums and composition and as an exceptional musician is a sought-after guest soloist, but also plays successfully with his own formations, for example with the trio D.R.A. Since 2000, Dell has also headed the “Institute for Improvisation Technology” in Berlin and has been teaching urban planning and urban renewal at the UdK Berlin since 2017.

Sooner And Later’ is an album that grows in appeal with repeated listening. The trio masters interplay and while that dynamic takes precedence over solo time, there are numerous opportunities to appreciate each of the players individually. The quieter moments are warm and enveloping, each with a distinct personality. Where the trio displays their more energetic side, they show a brilliance for creating complex and highly engaging melodies. ‘Sooner And Later’ is a significant achievement for a trio that had set a high bar, long ago.

Karl Ackermann, allaboutjazz.com 03/2017 

With intriguing harmonic figures, and a never too emphatic timbre, her pianism has the effect of lightly dancing above the firm ground of Marc Muellbauer’s stoic and sovereign bass and Heinrich Köbberling’s playful tidal drum work. Her music is rather sparing, essential and of understated clarity rather than abundant. With the work on her newest album Soon And Later Hülsmann is back in the deep mold she carved with her trio through the years. Her clear light strokes true to the sound and the almost autonomously spreading of her lines effortlessly took space and time during the 30 minutes of the showcase indicating which blossoming would be possible in a longer stretch. She apparently reached a higher level in the expression of her and her trio’s very own approach.

Henning Bolte about the showcase concert @ Jazzahead! 2017 for allaboutjazz.com, 05/2017

Rich and textured.

George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly, 03/2017

Julia Hülsmann is a highly imaginative player possessing a rich harmonic language, 24-carat melodic sensibility and incredible rhythmic suppleness.

Jazzwise, UK

The album, Hülsmann’s sixth for ECM, tacks toward visitations that come and go in unconventional ways. The writing serves the purposes of melody most often, with improvising subtle and understated. Muellbauer’s “ The Poet (For Ali)” begins modestly, only to build in intensity with the album’s strongest rhythmic pulse. One of the album’s liveliest numbers comes with Hülsmann’s bouncy, slightly funky “J.J.” The song’s theme conveys the band’s playful sides, the tune ultimately rolling into the album’s most delicious song.

John Ephland (Downbeat Magazine, 07/2017)


The best of those I heard (…) was the most familiar: the trio of the German pianist Julia Hülsmann, with Marc Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Köbberling on drums. (…) The mature, thoughtful music of Hülsmann’s trio is about substance rather than effect — which is not necessarily intended as a criticism of those who, in the fight to establish themselves in a competitive world, look to distinguish themselves through gesture. I was momentarily disappointed when Hülsmann announced that she and her colleagues were going to finish the set with a tune by Radiohead (…). But then they turned “All I Need” (from In Rainbows) into something of such quiet poise, purity and radiance that any uncharitable thoughts I was beginning to entertain about the entire genre were instantly vaporised.

Richard Williams about the showcase concert @ Jazzahead! 2017 on his blog thebluemoment.com, 04/2017

The band consistently speak with one voice (she and bassist Marc Muellbauer often drop in and out of unison passages), and the coalescing conversation of ‘From Afar’ epitomises that in its brief piano motifs, answering double bass, and slowly gelling harmonies. Hülsmann’s meditative dynamism resonates through ‘Thatpujai’ (formed of solo phrases by the late German jazz pianist Jutta Hipp); drummer Heinrich Köbberling’s ‘You & You’ becomes almost Jarrett-like; the Kyrgyzstan folk tune ‘Biz Joluktuk’ is classically delicate; ‘JJ’ is relaxed and boppish, and Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’ suggests Hülsmann has listened to Brad Mehldau’s investigations of the same source. It’s a quietly classy and vivacious set.

John Fordham, The Guardian 04/2017 

Like End Of A Summer, overt virtuosity has little place on Imprint, but the equilateral triangle that form this trio, with each side gently pushing and pulling – never for dominance but, perhaps for emphasis – is the unmistakable consequence of three players who, after being together for many years, have leapt to another plateau since joining ECM. With greater aplomb, and a more balanced blend of extroverted energy and the equal power of understatement, Imprint is a watershed recording for the egalitarian Hülsmann and her trio, and one of 2011´s best piano trio recordings to date.


As a pianist and as a composer Julia Hülsmann is a poet. She prefers a tight style with reverberating sound over an overflowing narrative style avoiding any pretense of depth. She does not shy away from pop songs and has included Seal’s „Kiss From a Rose“ on her last album among 6 of her own and 3 of her fellow musicians‘ compositions. The song sounds as if it is one of her own compositions and her original pieces sound like standards. (…)Breath, space, frugality are actually keywords to describe her music. Transparency of interaction between the musicians. (…) Hülsmann does not allow her feelings to dominate her mind, but she allows them as it were as a corrective to her leaning towards transparent constructivism.Feelings, at times melancholy darkened. Not: sentimentalities.


This might just be one of the great jazz treatments of the songs of Kurt Weill. (…) Hülsmann´s ECM albums were intelligent distillations of familiar jazz-piano styles, but she opens up more on this enticing set, while staying alert to coaxings from the bass and drums, and to the eloquence of Bleckmann and trumpeterflugelhornist Tom Arthurs. (…) Not a sound is out of place on this beautifully crafted project, but it sounds open and spontaneous just the same.

Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz

This might just be one of the great jazz treatments of the songs of Kurt Weill. (…) Hülsmann´s ECM albums were intelligent distillations of familiar jazz-piano styles, but she opens up more on this enticing set, while staying alert to coaxings from the bass and drums, and to the eloquence of Bleckmann and trumpeterflugelhornist Tom Arthurs. (…) Not a sound is out of place on this beautifully crafted project, but it sounds open and spontaneous just the same.


In the past she has often collaborated with vocalists, but now she has found a sound in the 88 keys which sounds like singing without her having to raise her voice. It is a singing which comes from deep inside and spreads through the whole body into the fingertips.