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Pablo Held: Glow

Dan Bilawsky By

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German piano wonder Pablo Held was only 23 years old when he entered the studio to record the music on Glow, but he had already earned his place in the pantheon of modern day piano trio leaders. Held's first two albums—Forest Of Oblivion (Pirouet, 2008) and Music (Pirouet, 2010)—helped put him on the map, but Glow might go down as his real breakthrough record. Held leaves the trio format behind, though he retains the services of drummer Jonas Burgwinkel and bassist Robert Landfermann, and makes a quantum leap forward with ten far-ranging works for this expansive, ten-person ensemble.

While each piece on Glow resides in its own orbit, certain commonalities exist. First and foremost is the focus on instrumental blending. While Held utilizes the usual mixture of horns and rhythm section that are all-too-common, he also works cello, celesta, harmonium and harp into the mix, expanding the combinatorial possibilities within each piece. He proves to be a brilliant sonic chemist, capable of mixing any instruments in balance, making it difficult on occasion to distinguish one instrument from the other, but easy to revel in the aural concoctions—whether stormy or sublime—of his creation. The second element in play on many of these pieces is the rhythmic-to-arrhythmic duality that arises throughout. Landfermann and Burgwinkel help to constantly reshape and refocus the music, using everything in their arsenal from funk to relative freedom, in a continuous effort to mold Held's music to his liking.

Held wrote eight of the ten pieces for Glow, and each one shows off his compositional curiosity in a different manner. One piece sets sail as a waltz, with Henning Sieverts' cello gracefully sailing over the rhythm section ("Secret"), but enters a dark place, with jittery, insect-like arco sounds, coming out the other end in trance-inducing, layered territory. Another number takes shape with a tenor saxophone dancing around a hip groove ("LP"), and continues to develop, as Held and his longtime trio partners get into some heavy duty discussion during his piano solo. The shortest number, "Tongedicht," is a pleasant vignette that's more segue than song, but the longest composition proves to be a piece of substantial worth; a viscous stew of sonic wonders, the title track seems to literally glow—and grow—during its ten-minute lifespan.

While Held includes two pieces he didn't pen—Sandra Hempel's "This Is What I'm Asking For" and Peter Held's "Wiegenlied"—he saves them both for the very end. The former fits in well next to Held's work, while the latter is a different type of entry. "Wiegenlied" begins and ends with baroque-derived beauty, but moves to an equally luxuriant Asian-tinged atmosphere in the middle. As good as Held's earlier albums are, they don't hold a candle to Glow, which gets to the heart of Held's compositional acuity in marvelous and myriad ways.

Track Listing: Is This The End; LP; Outer Rim; Glow; Rebirth Of A Song; Run; Tongedicht; Secret; This Is What I'm Asking For; Wiegenlied.

Personnel: Menzel Mutzke: trumpet; Sebastian Gille: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Niels Klein: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Kathrin Pechlof: harp; Hubert Nuss: celesta, Harmonium; Henning Sieverts: bass, cello; Dietmar Fuhr: bass; Robert Landfermann: bass; Jonas Burwinkel: drums; Pablo Held: piano, celesta.

Title: Glow | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Pirouet Records

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