Jazz singer, songwriter, composer, and pianist Julia Hülsmann was born in Germany, and her intelligent, brilliant, and incisive brand of poetic, artful vocal and piano jazz has brought her tremendous critical respect in her native country but little exposure or attention outside of it. Forming her own trio with bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Rainer Winch (Winch was eventually replaced in the trio by Heinrich Köbberling on drums) in 1995, Hülsmann released Trio on BIT Records in 2003 as well as Scattering Poems, featuring vocalist Rebekka Bakken, on the German label ACT that same year. Although she is an accomplished songwriter, Hülsmann's work has often tended toward interpretation, and she has done intriguing reconfigurations of the songs of Randy Newman, Nick Drake, and Sting and has provided striking jazz soundscapes for the poems of e.e. cummings and Emily Dickinson. Come Closer, with vocalist Anna Lauvergnac, was released in 2004 by ACT, followed by Good Morning Midnight, featuring singer Roger Cicero, in 2006. Hülsmann reverted to a straight trio for two ECM recordings, The End of a Summer, which appeared in 2008, and Imprint, which followed in 2011. In 2013, Hülsmann released her first quartet album, In Full View, featuring British trumpeter Tom Arthurs.
She did the international festival circuit while conceiving a new project based on the songs of Kurt Weill. Her trio -- with Marc Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Köbberling on drums -- was again appended by Arthurs and the voice of Theo Bleckman. She radically reconfigured nine Weill tunes and three settings of poems by Walt Whitman, and created what amounted to a concerto for the two additional members. The resulting album, Clear Midnight/Kurt Weill & America, was released by ECM in 2015, and followed by an international tour. ~ Steve Leggett