In addition to writing for his own group, Julian is an avid composer of solo piano works, taking inspiration from many genres and influences to craft a unique, evocative sound. Delving into the worlds of neo-classical, folk music and jazz, his compositions are ideally suited to artistic collaborations, commissioned projects, movie scoring and intimate house concerts.
Julian has been playing piano for the better part of fourteen years now and has no plans of stopping any time soon. Originally hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, Julian got his start on the keys with influential piano teacher and mentor Jim Walbert who conveniently lived down the street. An eventual family move to Philadelphia helped spur this burgeoning hobby into a full-blown obsession, inspired by the city’s rich jazz history and wealth of talent. Over the course of several years he studied with some of Philly’s finest pianists including Father John D’Amico, Nick Michalopoulos, and Tom Lawton, deepening his immersion into the world of jazz technique and repertoire, not to mention slowly discovering his own voice as a composer along the way. He began to perform with various groups in the Philly area around this time, beginning the journey to a professional career in music. It was only natural to take it to the next level when he was offered a Presidential Scholarship from UArts in 2007, spending two years there as a jazz performance major. Following this Julian decided to take a well-deserved break from school and jump ship to Argentina, where he lived, worked, and played for his uncle’s hotel and restaurant “El Castillo de San Lorenzo” in the foothills of the Andes mountains for four months. A life changing and enriching experience to say the least, he absorbed a new language, culture and sounds that would inform his creative output, and even spontaneously found himself as house pianist at a packed jam session for the Beunos Aires International Jazz Festival before his flight home a few days later!
The return to life in the states saw him living, working and playing sporadic gigs in the Philadelphia area, yet especially focusing his energies anew on reaching new levels as a composer for jazz trio/quartet as well as solo piano works. Over two years he produced a sizeable output of original material that would eventually find its way to the stage in the form of his original group, “The Julian Hartwell Project,” as well as experimenting with jam bands and other projects and honing his experience playing live in venues around town. Seeking motivation and a new community of jazz musicians, Julian returned to school at Temple University in 2012 to finish out his degree. This proved to be a great decision for both his artistic growth as well the increased connections with fellow players and professional mentors/performers found in Boyer’s reputable jazz studies program. While juggling academics, practicing daily, and writing for his own group and various projects, he soon found himself filling the piano chair in the TU Jazz Band, Temple’s premiere big band led by Terell Stafford. Besides the invaluable teaching tool this afforded in playing with a big band, he had the opportunity to perform with the ensemble at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center two years in a row, with both Christian McBride (2013) and Jimmy Heath and Jon Faddis (’14), as well as recording with the latter artists at an unforgettable session at the historic Systems Two Studios in New York. Among these exciting highlights, Julian continued to hone his own group’s sound with regular gigs at venues such as Chris’ Jazz Café, and push his arranging skills with the expansion to a full sextet involving both acoustic and electric instrumentation. As of graduating in Fall 2014, Julian stays busy leading his own group and his currently on track to present his alloriginal debut album by Summer of ‘15. Besides this he continues to perform as a sideman and soloist around town, all the while honing his skills as an original voice to be reckoned with in the world of jazz and beyond.