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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.
Track Listing: Heart Beats; Voices of War; Arak; Yemen; Ship of Fools; Niggun; Alma; 5/8 Mantra; Shalvat Nefesh; Middle East Blues; Remembering; Sun Light.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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