Since they started in the early 1970’s, ECM has been giving the world one excellent jazz piano disc after another–significant names include Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Paul Bley, more recently Anat Fort, Bo Stenson, and now Julia Hulsmann. Leading a trio on her ECM debut, THE END OF SUMMER, Hulsman displays a graceful, muted, and melancholy air. In the manner of Stenson and Bley, Hulsmann expresses maximum emotion and mood using the fewest (but well-placed) notes. Unlike the aforementioned gentlemen however, Hulsmann favors almost folk-like, affable, and concise melodies. Her bassist and drummer seem subdued at times, but they’re constantly lending the tunes a sense of forward motion.
The athletic Italian- (and Latin-) language arias of the young Handel, almost unknown to general audiences a few decades ago, have become almost a rite of passage for young sopranos, so it's no surprise to see the highly praised soprano Julia Lezhneva come along with a collection of them for her second solo album. It's an attractive set showing that Lezhneva knows how to play to her strengths. There are just enough of the big showpieces to prove that she can acquit herself fine in them (and indeed she has done the likes of Vivaldi very well in the past), but the majority of the program is devoted to displaying her rather uncanny silvery sound.