(Pirouet Records PIT3078. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)
This concert led by German pianist Pablo Held was part of the “Rising Stars” series co-ordinated by the European Concert Hall Organisation. Held was given the opportunity to invite a guest, and the American guitarist John Scofield (who had never heard of the young piano player before) agreed to participate on the recommendation of his trusted drummer Bill Stewart. The performance took place at the Kölner Philharmonie in January 2014. After the tentative beginning of Held’s composition Cameo, it quickly becomes obvious that this gig has more substance than an impromptu “festival set”. Held says, “You could have expected that such a famous player would be taking a look at the notes for the first time at the rehearsal” but Scofield was enthusiastic about playing with the trio and “had already intensively worked on our pieces”. The principals show real understanding and compatibility, and sparks fly during their opening solos.
Reciprocating Scofield’s preparation and attention to detail, the young trio does well with the guitarist’s sometimes tricky music. Held explains that Scofield “continually sent us letters with notes for pieces of his that we wanted to play”. The gentleness of Kubrick segues with a bass riff into the harsher line of Camp Out, which – coincidentally or not – has a head that recalls the old novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)”. In the middle of this lengthy piece, a bowed section by bassist Robert Landfermann leads to a daring, exploratory episode with Held and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel that is completely unexpected. Scofield’s assertion that “They’ve developed a very free approach, and as a unit they can intuitively move quickly to different musical areas” is clearly demonstrated here.
Imaginary Time is a typical Scofield melody, and Held says of its creator, “his playing is so alive. Every note sounds different”. None of the members of the German trio was born when Scofield first came to prominence in the late 70s, yet they sound confident and inspired in the company of greatness.
Some of the material on the CD is not instantly attractive, and there are minor misfires during Nocturne and the closer, Joni Mitchell’s Marcie. But it is the kind of music that gains appeal through familiarity, and one hopes that the reunion that Held and Scofield wish for will come to fruition in the near future.