Urs Bollhalder was born on May 28 1981, in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He played the trumpet, piano and the guitar already at an early age. Being exposed to a vast amount of music of a very diverse stylistic heritage he was studying the rich tradition of classical music as well as jazz improvisation. From the very beginning he was attracted not only by performing and interpreting music but also very much by composing music himself.
At the age of 16 he was the youngest member of the Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra, where he played with guest soloists like Randy Brecker, Bob Berg and Franco Ambrosetti. Before that he had already played a vast amount of concerts inside and outside of Switzerland and had written several commissioned compositions for Big Bands and Choirs as well as solo piano pieces in the classical vein.
His fascination for the piano grew steadily. Urs had already received piano lessons for several years, until in his mid teens he finallly decided to dedicate himself entirely to becoming a pianist.
In June 2006 Urs Bollhalder graduated from the jazz department of the Hochschule Luzern with highest marks and distinction. He was awarded a prize by the Friedl-Wald Foundation as well as one by the Ida & Albert Flersheim Foundation. Urs Bollhalder studied in Lucerne with a.o. Jean Paul Brodbeck, Elena Szirmai, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Hans Feigenwinter and Christoph Stiefel.
And he’s clearly been a quick and enthusiastic student. Already demonstrates a mature conception and a knowing embrace of the piano’s rich tradition. The Irish bass player and composer Ronan Guilfoyle wrote as follows about Urs Bollhalder:
“More people are playing jazz and improvised music than ever before, but special musicians are as rare as ever. Urs is one of those special musicians, both as a player and composer. He has the kind of creative spark, technique, originality and love of music that we need more than ever in the music and the wider world in general”.
After attending a weeklong workshop with Abdullah Ibrahim in Boswil, Switzerland he travelled to Cape Town in 2003 to attend a 3-weeks masterclass with the African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim. These meetings with this charismatic and mysticist African master had a deep impact on the young musician. Not only in terms of actual musical content but also spiritually.
He took composition lessons with Django Bates in London and Diderik Wagenaar in Den Haag.
He first made a name for himself, in Switzerland and abroad, when he made his first CD with his then trio in 2010, for the Italian label CAM Jazz. His band played concerts at various venues such as the Jazz Festival Bern, at 12Points! Festival of New European Jazz in Dublin and at the Swiss festival Suisse Diagonales.
In 2008 the well-known Swiss bass player Heiri Känzig brought in Urs for his new project Buenos Aires featuring Matthieu Michel on flügelhorn and Michael Zisman on the bandoneon. In 2009 the quintet‘s first album Buenos Aires has been released on the German record label Neuklang followed in 2011 by the second recording Paris – Buenos Aires, released by the Swiss record label Musiques Suisses. The group played numerous concerts at home and abroad.
In 2011 Urs Bollhalder was invited to take part in the Jazzwerkstatt Zürich. He formed the quasi chamber music-like Transfiguration Art Ensemble. A multi-national ensemble featuring talented young musicians from Switzerland, Austria and Italy. They performed a set of original compositions by the pianist in which threads of written out compositional parts were adventurously woven together with parts of compositionally-informed free improvisation.
The new trio recording called Eventide of the exceptional Swiss jazz pianist Urs Bollhalder will be released in Mai 2015 on the Swiss record label Musiques Suisses. On this new recording he is collaborating with the renowned double bass player Heiri Känzig and the talented young drummer Kevin Chesham.