German pianist Julia Hülsmann isn’t quite a minimalist but neither is she flamboyant—not even close. For Sooner and Later, she returns to the trio format of her earliest ECM efforts, and she sounds comfortable in this simple setting. No one here is jockeying; it’s a band of equals.
Hülsmann, joined as she has been on all her ECM releases by bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling, is a lyrical player who favors rolling out a theme tentatively. Sometimes, as on her back-to-back original compositions “J.J.” and “Soon,” she goes for a rhythmic approach, skipping her way through the melody giddily and giving Muellbauer and Köbberling all of the openings they could possibly ask for. On the ballads—Köbberling’s “You & You” and Muellbauer’s “The Poet (for Ali)” are particularly sweet—they take their time, establishing mood and tone prudently.