How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
New York's Smalls club has been the launching pad for an inordinate amount of jazz artists that belies its diminutive square footage. One segment of their territory is an Israeli-American jazz connection that has produced a culture of premier artists who have gone on to influence the broader jazz community. Pianist Omer Klein is part of a second wave of these musicians who mix virtuosity, world music sensibility and melodic flair to affect a global sound.
Omer Avital, whose exquisitely powerful bass has helped to define this sound, joins with drummer Ziv Ravitz and percussionist Itamar Doari on this debut. Klein's style and compositional strength brings to mind other melodic jazz/world masters and those that enjoy pianist Maurice El Medioni's rai stylings will be very much at home here. The Mideastern flavor is highly evident and streaks through these selections in the way that strips of chocolate run through a delicious French croissant. The rhythms and melodies add to the jazz without sacrificing the rich texture and roots of the original style.
Klein makes good use of a lyrical and fluid right hand in the context of Avital's support and a broad percussive landscape. In addition to this first-rate musicianship several of these melodies are quite catchy while others are seductive and hypnotic. Two solo piano works, the all-too-short "Unerasable" that uses rubato to effective advantage, and the hymn-like "Tiul Be 'Israel" contrast with the up-tempo "Abutbul," quick stepping "Netanya" and the delightfully brisk "Oud Song." "Kavana" is a focused closer that strikes a beautiful balance between rhythm and melody that subtly builds to a devotional climax. An auspicious debut that is compositionally strong, musically relevant and refreshingly listenable.
Track Listing: Abutbul; Malchut; Oud Song; Unerasable; Melody For Alon; 3/4 Mantra; Netanya; The Journey Home; Tiul Be 'Israel; Kavana.