Considering the rhythmic spark that freshens this program, it is fitting that Omer Klein's solo piano album begins with a drum solo. Sitting down at the drum set, he introduces his forte with hands on drums and a personalized muffle that contains the basic building blocks of life: Heart Beats. Elsewhere, he spends his time at the piano working up daydreams and reveries that float impressions closely identified with his song titles. "Alma" and "Ship of Fools" rely on simplicity and lyricism for their meaning, while "Voices of War" pushes forcefully with some dissonance. "Sun Light" and "Shalvat Nefesh" move hymn-like with repetition and solemnity as Klein's impressions demonstrate their character with ordinary means and predictable behavior.
More interesting are the rhythmic numbers that he's created to outline his program of North African and Middle Eastern folk music merged with jazzy ideas. "Middle East Blues" carries an ethnic hue with its exotic harmony and a complex meter. "Yemen," "Niggun" and "5/8 Mantra" stand out as the best of Klein's dozen compositions due to the rhythmic variety that are pumped into each.
Born in Israel, schooled at the New England Conservatory and winner of the Jazz Hoilaart Contest in Belgium as well as the International Chamber Music Competition of New England, Klein combines elements from his native cultural environment with classical training to create varied feelings. He's at his best when churning an appetizing rhythm and applying improvised patterns in careful doses. Keeping ahead of the ordinary element in contemporary jazz, however, means laying out one's best qualities consistently.
Heart Beats; Voices of War; Arak; Yemen; Ship of Fools; Niggun; Alma; 5/8 Mantra; Shalvat Nefesh; Middle East Blues; Remembering; Sun Light.