Pale Fire by Z3

WhyPlayJazz (RS014), CD, Release date: May 16, 2014
Artist: Z3

Pale Fire by Z3 (2014 WhyPlayJazz, RS014)

Track listing

  1. Positiv Negativ  7:47
  2. Melos  9:09
  3. Two  7:20
  4. Matrix  9:27
  5. Map  5:44
  6. Hu  10:02
  7. Poly  5:32

Line Up

Philip Zoubek (p, comp), Benjamin Weidekamp (cl, bcl), Christian Weber (b)


All compositions by Philip Zoubek. Recorded on 3rd & 4th of February 2013 by Stefan Deistler at the Loft, Cologne, Germany. Mixed by Pedja Avramovic and Philip Zoubek at Mediapark Studios, Cologne, Germany.


There was this band in the 1960s, part of the free jazz tradition, that I always really admired: the Jimmy Guiffre Trio with Paul Bley on piano and Steve Swallow on Bass. This trio’s music, their subtlety, their sense of space and playful straightforwardness immediacy continues to be of exceptional significance for my musical development. I am fascinated by the seamless connection of improvisation with composition, by the way this music handles space and density, by how it opens a tonal mobility and subliminally creates intensity and tension. Their music achieves a simple kind of beauty without ever being even remotely banal or, on the contrary, weighty.

That’s where I wanted to start. Not in the form of a historicising homage but a continuation that takes up my own musical experiences. When I began composing, I was particularly interested in the compositional possibilities that arose from the timbre of this line up . Especially the rhythmically complex structures originate a sound in which the individual voices coalesce, intertwine, even out. That’s exactly where improvisation should happen: in a highly communicative space in which each player has a clear sense of the others’ place and motion and in which the functional roles are continuously interchanged.

When I asked Benjamin Weidekamp and Christian Weber four years ago whether they were up for taking this as a basis and find a music that would concentrate our experiences with free improvisation, new music and different ways of playing jazz while also exploring new spaces, they immediately agreed. It was important to me that I could count on my fellow musicians to participate in making the music, both intellectually and emotionally. And to work the music out together in often intensive and sometimes frustrating rehearsals. After our first meeting it was clear to us all that we have “found” each other and that it would be worthwhile to embark upon a common musical journey. I am therefore extremely happy to present the album “Pale Fire” as result of our work to date. It was recorded in two exhausting days at the studio in the Loft Cologne. Nevertheless, most of the pieces come from the live concert that followed.


Philip Zoubek is an Austrian pianist and composer who lives in Cologne and is part of the scene around the “Loft”, a wonderful location for improvised music and new classical music, which is run by WDR Symphony Orchestra flautist Hans Martin Müller. Zoubek is known for his extended techniques preparing his piano with pots, plastic stuff and glass jars (and many more) but for this album he has chosen to put this stuff aside (at least mostly). His trio with Benjamin Weidekamp (cl, bcl) and Christian Weber (b) refers to Jimmy Giuffre’s seminal trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow but Zoubek intends to continue their approach adding his own musical experiences so that the music is more than a mere homage.

“Pale Fire” lives from a constant clash of composed material and improvised passages, Zoubek wanted the improvisation to take part in a complex communicative space where all the musicians are aware what the others are doing and where roles and functions are permanently in flux.

This is less intellectual than it sounds, tracks like “Melos” are constant shapeshifters as well as to rhythm and sound, intensity and beauty. The composition starts like a classic Giuffre piece, the melodies jump like jaunty grasshoppers, there is a sense of wildlife on a summer meadow, lively, joyous, exuberant – but towards the end the atmosphere changes: the sounds of the clarinets and the bowed bass are gloomy and dark, only the piano tries keep the mood from the beginning alive. There is immediacy and subtlety, there are condensed compositional parts and extended improvised spaces and especially when the instruments seem to melt into each other, the album has its best moments – for example in “Two” (my favorite) and “Hu”, the longest track, where Zoubek comes back to prepared piano.

My friend Julia Neupert (who is also the host of the SWR radio show) was absolutely enthusiastic about the album and I have to admit that I was rather reluctant after the first listening. Yet, the music has hidden qualities that I recognized only after several attempts, it is music that needs attention.

“Pale Fire” was recorded at the “Loft”, most of the music was played live at a gig the band played after two days in the studio.

Martin Schray, (July 2014)

Eine hervorragende Scheibe, perfekt austariert, die jegliche Trockenheit oder verkopfte Komplexität vermeidet., Thierry Giard (June 2014)

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