CD Review: Julia Hülsmann Quartet - In Full View

Julia Hülsmann Quartet - In Full View
(ECM 371 7777. CD Review by Chris Parker)

‘Tom adds hundreds of new colours to our band sound’ is pianist/composer Julia Hülsmann’s reaction to the impact UK trumpeter Tom Arthurs has had on her trio with bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling. Accordingly, since, as she says, ‘many of the things I normally played in the trio . . . didn’t work’, In Full View contains a rich variety of new pieces written specially for the expanded unit by all its members.

The ‘new colours’ Hülsmann mentions range from the mellow plangency, occasionally breaking out into flaring brilliance, Arthurs brings to the bassist’s opener, ‘Quicksilver’, through the brooding lyricism he achieves with this muted instrument on another Muellbauer piece, ‘Gleim’, to the plaintive wistfulness of his contribution to Köbberling’s ‘Forever Old’, the revved-up brashness he adds to Hülsmann’s title-track and the multi-hued virtuosity of his extended solo on his own ‘Forgotten Poetry’ .

Equally adept in both relatively straightahead and freely improvised jazz, Arthurs has rapidly matured, during his Berlin residence, into a genuinely world-class trumpeter, able to move with complete assurance between the most affecting, ringing purity and the almost conversational intimacy demanded by small-group jazz’s more informal moments.

The resounding success of In Full View , however, is by no means attributable solely to Arthurs: Hülsmann is clearly a profound and subtle musical thinker, not only unerringly selecting the moods and textures most suitable for expression by her wonderfully sympathetic bandmates, but also displaying her musical forces with sufficient skill so that the album moves easily and unaffectedly between the gentlest delicacy and the punchiest robustness.

Whether they’re addressing the ten in-group originals or tunes by Manuel de Falla, Fumi Ude (Köbberling’s wife) or even the soft lilt of ‘The Water’ by Canadian singer/songwriter Feist, the quartet, throughout this utterly absorbing and consistently engaging album, constantly pull off small miracles of mutual sensitivity and poetic creativity.

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