Young German pianist Pablo Held credits playing live without a set list for helping him take the musical leap of faith that resulted in Glow. Here's a man who defied critics by expanding his acclaimed piano trio into a massive nine-piece band that includes such unorthodox (and unexpected) instrumentation as harp, celesta, harmonium and horns.
Recorded over the course of four days, the album represents Held's open-ended approach to jazz. His sense of free-form playing is evident on Glow's opening track, "Is This the End," as saxophones and clarinet flit in and out against intricate rhythms and Held's subtle piano. It sort of sounds like the original Chicago Transit Authority warming up, and it is representative of the other nine pieces here that range in length from 46 seconds to almost 11 minutes. Seven cuts are Held originals, and most of them boast arrangements that somehow reflect their titles. "LP" is a tribute to vinyl and plays like something squawky you'd find in your great-granddad's record collection, while "Outer Rim" refers to the Star Wars destination -- and sounds like it, too.
But Glow's shining moment has to be the title track, a minimalistic 10-and-a-half-minute composition in which six tones are played in a specific order over an E pedal tone before melding into a dreamy yet tense listening experience that is different every time you hear it.
1) Is This the End
3) Outer Rim
5) Rebirth of a Song
9) This Is What I'm Asking For