From Israel to Boston and then to New York, Omer Klein has followed the path of so many of his compatriotsup to a point. His debut as outright leader, Introducing Omer Klein
(Smalls Records, 2008), announced a unique voice, one that blended folkloric, classical and contemporary colors quite seamlessly. Three further recordings cemented Klein's reputation as one of the most talented pianists of his generation. Then, with New York at his feet, Klein moved to Germany. The change, however, has clearly inspired Klein, for Fearless Friday
, recorded in the famous Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg, is a stunning effort that sees Klein scale new compositional and improvisational heights.
Like a juggler, Klein tosses melodies up, spinning them this way and that with perpetual improvisational flare. Klein, undoubtedly, is at the epicentre of these ten tunes but there's no escaping what a brilliant trio
outing this is; Klein's intuitive partnership with long-term collaborator, bassist Haggai Cohen Milo
, provides the fulcrum but it's arguably the rhythmic guile of new drummer Amir Bresler
that sparks the pianist's boldest playing. Klein is a marvellously rhythmic pianist, but on breathlessly playful tunes like "Fearless Friday" and the virtuoso tour de force "I Guess That's Why They Call It Falling" there's perhaps more elasticity and greater surprise in Klein's playing than on any of his previous recordings.
The trio breathes new life into "Yemen" and "Niggun," both of which featured on Klein's solo piano outing Heart Beats
(Smalls Records, 2009). Though the former was inspired by the music of the West Asian country there's a vaguely Scottish lilt to the principal motif and a Ramsey Lewis
-esque bounce in the groove. The latter, a celebratory tale, interweaves Jewish folkloric and classical threads to thrilling effect. On the one non-original, a bewitching reworking of Duke Ellington
/Irving Mills' "Azure," Klein's playful trills and cascades in the piano's upper register evoke early Ahmad Jamal
Not for nothing were the ten selections recorded in just two days, and as the album title suggests, without any inhibitions, for the sense of freedom with which Klein, Cohen-Milo and Bresler attack the music is the fruit of a year on the road working these tunes. The cantering "Shwaye Shwaye," with its sharply defined melodic contours and infectious rhythm is an absolute highlight, but whether in full flow, or when treading more gently as on the graceful "Calla Lily" or the mid-tempo, classically tinged "Turquoise Memories," Klein's playing is consistently captivating.
There's less pronounced rhythmic compass to the stately blues number "Dimensions," which features wonderfully empathetic interplay between Klein and Bresler. Perhaps saving the best to last, the trio is at its most inspired on the emotive "Tears on a Bionic Cheek," where Klein conjures magic like a Bach-inspired Brad Mehldau
interpreting Radiohead. It's really that good.
More than simply one of the year's best releases, Fearless Friday
is, without a doubt, one of the most rewarding piano trio releases of recent years. The most exciting thing, however, is that Klein just seems to be getting better, inspired by the two musicians flanking him. Hopefully, there will be a lot more music coming from this exceptional trio in the years ahead.
Fearless Friday; Yemen; I Guess That’s Why They Call It Falling; Niggun; Azure; Shwaye Shwaye; Calla Lily; Turquoise Memories; Dimensions; Tears on a Bionic Cheek.
Omer Klein: piano; Haggai Cohen-Milo: acoustic bass; Amir Bresler: drums.