In view of the still youthfully fresh appearance of the ECM label, it is hard to believe that it could celebrate its fiftieth birthday in November 2019. As one of the undisputed best addresses for the finest contemporary jazz albums, very special classical albums and all genres that have established themselves between these two poles, a music world without the significant contribution of ECM is inconceivable. May the founder and mastermind of ECM, Manfred Eicher, continue to lead the business of the Munich-based company for a long time to come and be the source of artistic inspiration that always makes ECM productions something special.
After initially being produced exclusively in the ECM studio based in the bourgeois Obermenzing district of Munich, Manfred Eichner succeeded over the years in engaging an extensive European network of first-class studios that were sworn into the ECM sound. The Studio La Buissonne, situated in a beautiful landscape, blessed by the southern French sun, with a view of Mont Ventoux, which has already shown its limits to one or the other participant of the Tour de France thanks to its steep mountain route, has recently become part of the ECM network. The new album of the Julia Hülsmann Quartet was also recorded there in spring 2019, and one can well imagine that the relaxed Provencal atmosphere had a motivating effect on the musicians and technicians. The Julia Hülsmann Quartet, in their current line-up, are, alongside the pianist and composer Hülsmann, her two long-standing trio partners Marc Muellbauer on bass, Heinrich Köbberling on drums and tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff.
Rarely does an album like Not Far From Here present itself as a quasi-one-piece continuous work, which is divided into titles almost without necessity, of which nevertheless five titles go back to the pianist, six to band members, while one title in a double pack is a cover of David Bowie's "This Is Not America", which is once intoned by the band, dominated by the saxophonist and a second time solo by the piano as the tune of the album. The bassist's title "Le Mistral", with its wildly clocked groove determined by the plucked bass, does full credit to the Föhn wind blowing violently from Lake Geneva to the Rhone delta, after a rather reserved introduction by the pianist. The drummer's short title "If I Had A Heart" is emotionally charged, his immediately following title "Colibri 65" with its gentle gait proves to be a contrast program. "Einschub" comes from the saxophonist and presents itself as a rhythmically strongly animated hymn. The three gentlemen of the quartet leave the opening title "Not Far From Here" to their bandleader and pianist, who melodically flows calmly and breathes the aura of Bossa Nova.
With the album Not Far From Here, recorded in Southern France, ECM has made itself a birthday present that, along with the other albums of the 2019 vintage, does the label's fifty-year-old every credit.
Uli Kempendor, tenor saxophone
Julia Hulsmann, piano
Marc Muellbauer, double bass
Heinrich Kobberling, drums