Philip Zoubek

pianist – NICA artist since 2020
© Nadine Heller-Menzel

An explorer of sound to the core: The pianist does not limit himself to any genre.

Philip Zoubek, born 1978 in Tulln / Austria, lives and works in Cologne as pianist and composer. At the centre of his multifaceted musical work lies »sound exploration«, consistently testing the dimensions of the prepared piano as well as the full potential of analogue synthesizers.

Zoubek collaborates with Frank Gratkowski, Wilbert de Joode, Thomas Lehn, Clayton Thomas and Paul Lytton. He has played concerts at the Konzerthaus Vienna, the Luxembourg Philharmonic, at moers festival, Ullrichsberger Kaleidophon and GetItLouder Festival Shanghai/Beijing.

In 2008, he was awarded the Horst and Gretl Will Scholarship by the city of Cologne. In 2020 he was awarded the WDR Jazz Prize Composition.


As Philip Zoubek wrote, it is his desire “to think, realise and communicate his music within a broader musical horizon”. This sounds logical and stringent for a musician who was born in Tulln in Lower Austria in 1978 and has been on a piano stool since the age of 5. Only eleven years later, Zoubek explored new perspectives and expanded his horizon as a young student at the Conservatory of the City of Vienna and later at the Vienna University of Music.

Initially it was all about the piano and taking his first steps out into the big world along the guard rails of Blues. Before long, he felt that what could be learned from music labelled as Jazz was too schematic, formulaic, too confining. Philip Zoubek was ready to look beyond stylistic boundaries. In Cologne, he found what he was looking for. The jazz course at the HMT was stylistically open and, with teachers such as John Taylor and Hans Lüdemann, Dieter Manderscheid and Bill Dobbins, the course also warranted for an open-mindedness in many directions, toward traditional and modern Jazz, toward various styles of free improvisation, all the way to New and Electronic Music. And, the young Cologne scene was really diverse and abundant at that time, open to experiments and musical shifts, open to confrontation and friction, allowing for a smooth transition from student to professional level – an absolute treasure trove for a musician who is all about expanding his musical horizon.

Philip Zoubek’s multifaceted music, where improvisation and composition meet, is centred around ‘sound research’, aka working on an expanded array of sounds extending into the realm of noise, with a horizon far beyond what can be played on traditional instruments and traditional techniques. While he explores the dimensions of his prepared piano just as consistently as the potential of analogue synthesizers, he is also interested to overcome the structural separation of composed and improvised components in his music. The intention is that they should merge into one another, seamlessly, and result in music that is both composed and improvised at the same time, or at least could be. During his collaborations with internationally distinguished representatives of various European schools of improvisation such as Wilbert de Joode, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Frank Gratkowski or Franz Hautzinger, or during his collaboration with Niels Klein, with whom he prepared his trio music for the WDR Big Band on the occasion of the WDR Jazz Prize for Composition in spring 2020, it is evident how far Philip Zoubek has expanded his musical horizon beyond the world of stylistic definitions, conventional distinctions and categories.

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