Julia Hülsmann Trio feat. Theo Bleckmann & Ben Monder play The Beatles

  • Julia Hülsmann, Piano
  • Theo Bleckmann, Gesang
  • Ben Monder/Werner Neumann, Gitarre
  • Marc Muellbauer, Bass
  • Heinrich Köbberling, Schlagzeug

There have been legendary songwriting duos throughout the history of popular music. But whereas with George and Ira Gershwin or Rodgers and Hart the tasks of writing and composing were clearly divided, things are more complicated with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Most of their early songs came about when one of the two came up with an idea that was then developed together. Later the collaborators became competitors who tried to outdo each other with finished songs. But even the love-hate relationship between John and Paul, which was becoming ever more evident, proved to be extremely beneficial for the creativity of both of them. Among the 200 or so songs that they released under the same name in the 1960s, there are some of the world’s most successful to this day. George Harrison also contributed some classics to the band’s repertoire. Of course, their success is also due to the congenial production and marketing. At a time when the identity of songwriter and performer was just beginning to become the norm, the Beatles embodied the new type of “authentic” rock and pop stars with an unprecedented and since then rarely achieved ease. The songs also became hits because they were interpreted by the Beatles. But from the early teenage love songs to mature works like “Eleanor Rigby” (McCartney) or “She’s Leaving” (Lennon), the catalog of the two contains many jewels that have stood the test of time.

Julia Hülsmann accepted a great challenge for the German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt 2016, namely to reinterpret the Beatles’ songs.

For her, the joy at the suggestion from Frankfurt – “I’ve always been a Beatles fan and grew up with their music” – was also mixed up with doubts as to whether that would not have been tried too often and whether the originals would not prove to be too overpowering. In fact, many jazz musicians have worked their way through this canon without finding the right approach. Often the original disappeared under the burden of harmonic abstraction or virtuoso improvisation, and the swinging appropriation often lagged far behind the creative genius of the original. Neither one nor the other is to be feared with Hülsmann. “She prefers to set the stage for others rather than herself,” remarked Peter Rüedi once in ZEIT.

The pianist, who was born in Bonn in 1968, has already found new facets in the music of Randy Newman and Kurt Weill and has set the poetry of E. E. Cummings and Emily Dickinson to music in a captivating way. The vocalists with whom she worked, be it Rebekka Bakken, Anna Lauvergnac or Roger Cicero, she led to a beauty and clarity of expression that one often looks for in vain on their own records. For the Beatles project, Julia Hülsmann chose Theo Bleckmann as the singer, who has already refined her Kurt Weill project with his virtuoso vocal understatement. Born in Dortmund, he has long since established himself in New York as a busy and multi-faceted vocalist and Julia Hülsmann believes, “Theo is someone who can truly sing the Beatles’ songs in a new way.”

With her tried and tested trio with Marc Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Köbberling on drums, the pianist has developed a downright blind musical understanding that makes any safety concern superfluous. The guitar sounds that are somehow indispensable for a Beatles project are provided by Ben Monder. The sensitive New Yorker with his delicate sound language between “electric bebop” and ethereal soundscapes has not only accompanied jazz stars like Paul Motian or Lee Konitz, but also contributed the guitar parts to David Bowie’s album “Blackstar” and has long formed a creative tandem with Theo Bleckmann .
With this select team, Julia Hüsmann brings the Beatles’ songs to light anew from the perspective of today’s jazz. Squaring the circle? Who, if not this this German poet of jazz, should succeed?


„(Hülsmann provides) a brilliant study in how to handle material weighed down by history, one can almost say by the original sin. Her trio and guests also provided new arrangements of songs by the Beatles. It as a musical moment of glory with a rare lyrical expressivity. Pianist Hülsmann her moon-struck singer Theo Bleckmann and the senisitive introvert guitarist Ben Monder do not concern themselves with the shimmering shroud of the songs, their arrangements reveal the emotional core, the vibe and the gesture of the music. One could sense how the sonic source from piano, guitar and voice changed the aggregate state of the songs. Their water molecules emitted steam, that contracted into a cloud of sound. The ultimate cloud nine experience!“

Wolfgang Sandner, FAZ 10/2016