In the case of Pablo Held, the phrase “he was born to be a musician” is completely accurate: born on December 27, 1986 in Herdecke, Germany, the 24 year old grew up in a musical environment in Hagen, Germany. His father, a pianist and composer, teaches at the Hagen School of Music. His mother, who works as a piano tuner, plays piano as well as guitar, and is also a composer. No wonder, then, that Pablo Held tried to play music almost as soon as he learned to walk: “I started banging on things as far back as I can remember. I got my first children’s drum set when I was four, and my first drum lessons a little later. I stopped playing drums when I was ten – probably because our piano at home was always there – and started taking piano lessons at the Hagen School of Music, not from my father, but from one of his colleagues.” This gave him knowledge of the basics of jazz theory. In 1999, as a 12 year old, he won first prize at the Nordrhein-Westfalen “Jugend Jazzt” contest. At 15 his father enrolled him in the Glen Buschmann Jazz Academy in Dortmund, Germany for two years of instruction. Along with the theory, Pablo Held had a lot of opportunities to put the theory to practice. He played in a variety of groups and completed concert tours throughout Eastern Europe. At 16, Held won the “Jugend Jazzt” prize for a second time (2003), and for a third time as an 18 year old in 2005. In retrospect, the early move towards jazz was a matter of course for Pablo. “I grew up with jazz. As a little kid I’d often sit in front of my parents’ LP and CD shelf and single out the album covers and photos that caught my eye. Most of the time these were from Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Take 6, Quincy Jones, and Keith Jarrett.“
His parents’ record collection was not his only introduction to jazz. There were the early concert experiences where he made the acquaintance of the who’s who of the jazz scene. “I went to a Take 6 concert when I was two, John McLaughlin when I was four or five, John Scofield when I was eight, and to my first Herbie Hancock concert at twelve. Those were the big names, but my parents often dragged me along to the concerts of lesser-known musicians. And then there were the concerts my father played with his piano trio, or as a soloist.” At 15 Held resolved to go to the music conservato- ry. He confirms that, “It was clear to me that I couldn’t do anything else and I didn’t want to do anything else.” At the end of his 12th school year Held took his entrance exam for the Cologne Conservatory of Music, where he studied under the German pianist Hubert Nuss, and graduated in 2010. During his time at the conservatory he also studied under John Taylor, Achim Kaufmann, Florian Ross, and Vladislav Sendecki. Pablo Held has already gathered up a lot of ex- perience in his still-young music career. Among others, he has played with the WDR Big Band, Paul Heller, Dave Liebman, Jasper Blom, Matthias Nadolny, Jochen Rückert, Uli Beckerhoff, Ignaz Dinné, Eric Vloeimans, Henning Berg, Nicolas Thys, Claudio Puntin, Claus Stötter, Manfred Schoof, Julian Argüelles, Henning Sieverts, Dre Pallemaerts, and Nils Wogram. He has performed concerts in the USA, England, Russia, the Czech Republic, Norway, Slovakia, Holland, Swit- zerland, Ireland, Austria, Luxemburg, and Serbia. He has played at the North Sea Jazz Festival, 12 Points Jazz Festival, The Hague Jazz, the London Jazz Festival, Novi Sad Jazz Fes- tival, InnTöne Festival, Berlin Jazz Fest, Moers Jazz Festival, Maastricht Jazz Masters, Münster Jazz Festival, WDR 3 Jazz Cologne, Citroen Jazz Night Emsdetten, JOE Festival, the Audi Jazz Festival, and Jazzahead, among others.
In 2008 Pablo Held’s debut album, Forest of Oblivion, came out on the prestigious Munich label Pirouet Records. The press and critics enthusiastically praised the album. Welt am Sonntag wrote, “Pianist Pablo Held is 21 years old and with his trio he has presented a CD which shows richness and depth. The jazz scene is listening.” German Radio commented, “He’s the high flyer of the young jazz pianists in this country. Regardless of his age, Pablo Held’s pianistic and compositional abilities are remarkable.” And the Hessische Niedersächsische newspaper reported after a live concert, “A lot of applause for a trio with a lot of perspective.”
Pablo Held won the Westfalen Jazz Prize 2009; in the same year the Pablo Held Trio played in the final of the EBU Jazz Competition at the North Sea Jazz Festival. In January 2010 Held’s eagerly awaited second album was released by Pirouet Records. In Germany alone, three magazines (Stereo, Rondo, and Drums and Percussion) chose Music as “album of the month”. Drums and Percussion praised the CD thusly: “This exceptional 23-year-old pianist has pro- duced an intoxicating album... something big is happening here!” Werner Stiefele noted in Rondo that, “Both gripping and complex, the music of the Pablo Held Trio ignores the latest fashionable trend as it sets the standard for the further evolution of the piano trio. It is a milestone in filigree chamber jazz.” And in Stereo Tilman Urbach found that, “Pablo Held is no overbearing player. His fingers are not trying to grab the glitter of the faster, more virtuoso pianistic stunts. The 23-year-old pianist places importance on sustainability and an inner ear that discloses an atmospheric subtext that resonates.”
And in March of the same year Pablo assembled no less than nine musicians to record in the broadcast hall of the German Radio in Cologne. Titled Glow, Held’s third recording for Pirouet Records will be released on February 18, 2011. Besides the Pablo Held Trio, which was grounded at the end of 2005, Held is playing with the Niels Klein Quartet, Sebastian Gille Quartet, Norbert Scholly’s Dreams, Drums & Drones, Jonas Burgwinkel’s Source Direct, Tobi Christl’s Lieblingsband, the Benjamin Garcia Band, the Denis Gäbel 4, the Silvio Morger Group, the Menzel Mutzke Quartet, the Riaz Khabirpour Quintet, Claudio Strüby’s S-Cargo, Pop Goes Jazz, and the Nicolas Simion Group.