“Julia Hulsmann, Theo Bleckmann and Kurt Weill – Beat! Beat! Drum!
Writing about Kurt Weill in that 20th-century music bible The Rest Is Noise, the New Yorker critic Alex Ross invoked a 1928 Weill essay called On the Gestic Character of Music – a reference to musical gestures, in which the audience’s attention is suddenly grabbed by a familiar sound. Weill was brilliant at that. His classical education and precocity as a young composer in Germany gave him an eclectic understanding of structure, harmony and narrative development, and his absorption of American popular music following his flight from the Nazis in 1933 provided a bold counterweight to his complexities. That tension has fascinated Weill interpreters from his own day to now – artists all the way from Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald or Lotte Lenya, to Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull and John Zorn. Two German contemporary musicians, the jazz pianist Julia Hulsmann and the cross-genre singer Theo Bleckmann, give Weill’s songs (famous and not-so-famous) a grippingly unfamiliar, slow-turning spin on the new ECM Records release A Clear Midnight this month. Listen to the Weill tune for the Walt Whitman poem Beat Beat Drum below.“