“Hülsmann is an artist inclined toward the darker colors and the Zen of less is more. Her ensemble belongs with other ECM piano trios because it is a participatory democracy. Bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling are fully articulate individual voices, not accompanists.” - Thomas Conrad, Jazz Times (USA).
Julia Hülsmann’s ECM debut, “The End of a Summer”, recorded in 2008, established a change of emphasis for her trio’s work. Where earlier projects had been with singers, foregrounding the setting of texts, the ECM production put the focus back on the music, on the melodic allure of Hülsmann’s pieces, and the complementary compositions of Marc Muellbauer and Heinrich Köbberling. International response to “The End of a Summer”, and the touring that accompanied it, reinforced a wish to work more intensely in a ‘pure’ trio context. Hence “Imprint”. Most of the pieces here were written in the spring and summer of 2009, although there are also a few older pieces (“Rond Point”, “Grand Canyon”, “A Light Left On”), transformed in the course of the recording session itself.
The album is well-named. As composer, Hülsmann has a gift for paring themes to their expressive core, and they stand out in stark relief amid the surrounding improvisation. In the UK, Jazzwise magazine spoke of “elegantly-constructed melodies that seem natural extensions of the thematic material at hand”.
Recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in March 2010, “Imprint” is an album of poised, lyrical playing. Hülsmann credits producer Manfred Eicher with maintaining the album’s patient pace. “Whenever we felt the temptation to play more busily, he’d remind us that the music must flow. Naturally, we want this, too, but sometimes it takes a little courage to leave the pieces alone.” At the album’s conclusion, however, the musicians romp into a tribute to Thelonious Monk, high priest of deceptive ‘simplicity’. “Who’s Next” is a slyly swinging piece, freely created, but very much in the tradition, and a reminder that even European jazz has its roots elsewhere.
Hülsmann contributes seven pieces to the programme on “Imprint”: “Rond Point”, “Grand Canyon”, “A Light Left On”, “Juni”, “Go And Open The Door”, “Lulu’s Paradise”, and “Who’s Next”. Bassist Marc Muellbauer provides two tunes (Ritual” and “Ulmenwall”) as does drummer Heinrich Köbberling (“Storm In A Teacup”, “Zahlen Bitte”). The one tune in the set from outside sources is the Austrian-German Schlager hit “Kauf Dir einen bunten Luftballon” written in the 1940s by Anton Profes for the musical comedy “Der weiße Traum”. This song was a favourite of Hülsmann’s mother, who passed away in 2009. It’s testimony to the trio’s strong group identity that this music can be embraced and integrated without any sense of stylistic incongruity.