11–>12

31 Dec

Approaching the idea of modestly concluding 2011, I could write a few words about the “main world events”: The Arab Spring; The Earthquake in Japan; The Killing of bin Laden; South Sudan; Gilad Shalit. And so on.

I could take a different approach and survey the happenings of my musical microcosmos in 2011: The concerts I’ve played in Europe, the US and Israel; The new music I’ve composed for myself to perform, as well as for the Theater in Germany; The new trio album I’ve recorded with Haggai Cohen Milo and Ziv Ravitz; And so forth.

Another optional path would be sharing my favorite albums, movies, and books of the passing year, as long as I arrange them in lists of round numbers. No one has his or her favorite nine books. They all seem to have ten.

To write about all these things, I need to think of them. But somehow I’m more compelled to think about other things.

First, the senses. All the things I’ve tasted, smelled, heard, seen and touched this year.

Then, Thoughts. Emotions. Words. Deeds. Contact with others.

Trying to remember even a grain of this wealth, I can’t help but concluding that being alive and well is a blessing of inconceivable richness.

Many of us have our fingers on machines and our eyes on screens, for large parts of the day.

I highly recommend eating great food that was made with care by yourself or another; Listening to music that is being played by living men and women right in front of your eyes, in the same room where your body is; And kissing someone.

Happy New Year.

On a different note (quite a few different notes, actually): Austrian composer Johannes Berauer has surprised me and made a great transcription of my composition ‘España’ from ‘Rockets on the Balcony’. It includes the song and my solo. Check it out. Thank you Johannes for a detailed and devoted work!

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Pictures From The Studio

17 Dec

New York recording sessions. My trio with Haggai Cohen Milo and Ziv Ravitz. Album coming out, 2012.

Photography by the wonderful Gulnara Khamatova.

Music vs. Words

9 Dec

Trumpeter Nicholas Payton wrote in his blog last week that Jazz was dead. It generated a big buzz. Many people didn’t get his point, which was addressing the word jazz and not the music. My take on this is rather simple.

1. Jazz is a word. The music that was played by Minugs, Parker, Trane or whoever, was never a word. It was music. Words are assigned to music to make it compatible for discussion, and also for marketing. That’s OK. But the essence of music lies outside the realm of words – otherwise we wouldn’t have needed music.

2. Anyway, we do use these words (Jazz, Rock, and so on) which unsuccessfully try to capture something that can’t be captured. Since we use the words, we can have a discussion about their meaning, relevance and effectiveness; But it will be a discussion about language, not about music.

3. My personal agenda is: what I care about is creating amazing music and presenting it to the people. I don’t worry about definitions. I compose, practice, perform, and do my best to repeat this endlessly, intensely and creatively. When this is being done, I don’t care what’s it called. Whether the word ‘jazz’ will be alive, dead, asleep, or googling itself, my artistic and spiritual goals will remain the same.

4. This is a racial issue. As I’ve said I don’t care so much about genre-names, but Payton is trying to make a historical point. To be very clear – when I play Jazz, of course I’m playing Black American Music. I never felt anything else. If Payton (or anyone) feels the word Jazz is a generalization which leaves Blackness out, it’s worth pondering. I’m not saying the word Jazz should be replaced, but at least the point should be understood for what it is.

Paul Motian, 25 March 1931 – 22 November 2011

I would have felt weird if I only discussed the death of a word, or an idea, in the same weeks of Paul Motian’s actual death.

Paul was one of the greatest drummers since human expression is documented. I won’t link to any specific video, but I’ll just say that I’m playing more hours a day, more intensively, and with more awareness these days, partly inspired by him.

Recent Addictions

3 Dec

The last months were packed and exciting. In August and September we played in Europe with the trio. Also in September I was playing solo and teaching in Israel, then in Belgium. In October we recorded our next trio album in New York, to be released in 2012 – more about that soon. Then November brought concerts in Germany, and the exciting solo show in Tel Aviv with Alon Oleartchik as a special guest. But what was I doing in my spare time? The (somewhat partial) answer is found below:

1. Mozart’s widely celebrated Quintet in G minor, for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello. I could probably listen to the first movement  repeatedly forever. Good thing the next movements are so enchanting so I can bring myself to move on.

By the way, I have an old score of this piece, that I bought who knows where and when. Now that I can read a bit of German, I saw that it used to belong to a dentist called Kadish, who must have been a German-speaking amateur  musician, and that he performed it twice, in 1921 and 1923.

2. Elsa Morante‘s novel, La storia. One of the most profound novels about World War 2.

3. Charles Rosen’s book, The Classical Style. Takes you by the hand through the musical worlds of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

4. Michael Brecker’s solo on John Coltrane’s Transition, from Hancock, Brecker and Hargrove’s Directions in Music. It’s a tour de force demonstration of how all you need for a great solo is one idea. Well, that and the ability to expand and develop it masterfully.

In order to balance all this culture, you have to eat something.

1. If you’re in Tel Aviv I highly recommend Eyal Shani’s Miznon. It’s something like Gourmet in a pita. The minute steak is great.

Miznon, Ibn Gabirol 23

2. One of my favorite italian restaurants in New York City is kind of a best-kept secret. Bring cash, they don’t take credit cards. And don’t miss out on the Tiramisu.

Celeste, 502 Amsterdam Ave.

3. I think I’ve found the best three restaurants in Düsseldorf. These are all amazing:

Toxotis, Kaiserswerther Straße 402. One of the best greek places I’ve ever been to is surprisingly in this west-german city – I swear. I took Haggai and Ziv here after our concert at hofgarten in August and they couldn’t believe it. Get the lamb chops and thank me later.

Robert’s Bistro, Wupperstraße 2. An old establishment. The menu supposedly hasn’t changed for decades, and in this case that’s a good thing.

San Leo, Wallstraße 31. Probably the best Italian around. I thank drummer and friend Peter Weiss, a veteran Düsseldorfer, for the tip. Highly appreciated.

The Riddle

2 Jun

The act of creating something new.

Sometimes it feels like you’re inventing a riddle to which you yourself don’t know the solution.  You look for it for a while, then hopefully you find it.

This is something that might as well have been said by myself, including the exact age:

“Since age seven, I’ve been composing and have never stopped composing, yet, the creative process is as elusive to me as it has ever been.” – Lukas Foss

This happened to me twice last week:

“The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.” 

– T. S. Eliot

Sometimes you just have to keep working, and the work eventually brings the inspiration:

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo

And this is by the persian poet Rumi, whom I mentioned the other day:

Birdsong brings relief

to my longing.

I am just as ecstatic as they are,

but with nothing to say!

Please, universal soul, practice

some song, or something, through me!

New music on its way to you.

What’s New

31 May

Backstage

I haven’t been blogging in a long time – too busy with other things.. but I’m back. So, what did I miss?

Two really nice reviews of my trio with Haggai and Ziv. Nate Chinen wrote in The New York Times about our trio show at Smalls in New York City, that took place on April 5.

Here is a short video from that show, (we’re playing Shining Through Broken Glass) and this is us rehearsing a new tune, the morning after, in Brooklyn.

Carlo Wolff wrote about our album Rockets on the Balcony, in JazzTimes magazine. The review includes some great short descriptions of the tunes on the album, including calling ‘España’ “Sexy”, and saying that ‘The Wedding Song’ is “Middle Eastern disco for the end of the world”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I was especially happy with the way both Haggai and Ziv are complimented:

“For Milo’s style at its spriteliest, try ‘Hope.'”

“Ravitz is so driving, his highly textured rhythms dovetail perfectly with Klein’s explorations.”

last paragraph:

“That Klein has technique to burn is obvious. That he deeply feels what he’s writing comes through even during a composition as rueful as the title track. He’s pushing envelopes ethnic and musical here. Stretch your ears to meet Omer Klein.”

I’ve been checking out so many things recently.

Music:

Francis Poulenc. This incredible French composer is going with me everywhere I go these days. His choral music is beautiful, and I love his opera Dialogues des carmélites, but I’ve been mainly listening to his chamber music. I’ve developed an obsessive fascination with his Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet. Check out the first, slow theme of the second movement.

I’ve also been digging into some other 20th century pieces: Stravinsky’s Octet, Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Ravel’s Piano Concerto (Second movement!), Berg’s Violin Concerto and Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp.

I find a lot of beauty and depth in all of the above.

Books:

Guy de Maupassant – Le Horla. (In Hebrew it’s called Ha’ShamKan.)

A collection of short stories translated to Hebrew by Aviva Barak. The story Le papa de Simon is a testimony of the existence of good people in the world. It touched me so much that I composed a tune inspired by it, which bares the same title. Can’t wait to bring this one to the trio. However, other stories have much darker themes. All is warmly recommended.

Alex Ross – The Rest Is Noise. I have a much clearer picture of the music of the 20th century now. Ross really creates a strong, unified narrative that ties it all together. If you care about music, this book is a must.

Pablo Neruda – Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Translated by W. S. Merwin.

Rumi – Birdsong, translated by Coleman Barks.

I’ve been composing new music intensively, preparing for the Israeli tour with the trio in June, for later concerts we have in Europe, and for several upcoming solo concerts. It’s a very exciting process and I’m looking forward to sharing the new sounds with all of you.

Israel Trio Dates: (all in June)

  • 16 – Beit Ha’Kshatot, Ein Ha’Shofet
  • 17 – FestiJazz, Givatayim Theater
  • 18 – Levontin 7, Tel Aviv
  • 23 – Levontin 7, Tel Aviv
  • 24 – Milestone, Gan Shmuel

European dates for the trio coming soon, including some very cool surprises. In the meanwhile, this hit is announced:

  • August 20 – Hofgarten, Düsseldorf – outdoor park concert!

In September, apart from the trio gigs that will soon be confirmed, I’ll also be playing solo concerts and teaching. On Sep 18-22 I’ll teach at the Jerusalem Music Center, in a special, intensive Jazz course for Israel’s finest young classical pianists.

During that visit, I’ll play two solo piano concerts. One at the JMC, (exact date coming soon), and one on Sep 16 at the Gesher Theater. Later on, on Sep 25, I’ll play another solo concert, this time in Belgium – would love to see all my friends over there! This one is at Den Egger, in Scherpenheuvel-Zichem. Try to say that fast, three times, chewing a gum.

Inspiration

28 Feb

I’m still working quite intensively on the music for Lemon Tree.

In the meanwhile, here’s some incredible works of art I’ve been checking out recently:

Books:

Point Omega, Don Delillo.

Let me know if you’ve read this one. Several reviewers have described this novel as having an open ending. For me the ending is very clear, and I wonder if there’s any one out there who felt the same.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Virtuosic, strategic writing. As a side note, I don’t know a novel which makes more use of this.

Movies:

Le notti di Cabiria, Federico Fellini. With Giulietta Masina.

Masina won my heart with the help of Nino Rota.

Pierrot le fou, Jean-Luc Godard. With Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Again, I read somewhere that this gorgeous film doesn’t have a plot. It actually does.

Stealing Beauty, Bernardo Bertolucci. With Liv Tyler, D.W.Moffett and Jeremy Irons.

Every single shot is beautiful. I’m trying to think of a piece of music in which every bar, or second, is of extreme beauty. Ideas?

Music:

Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve, Charlie Parker

How did he do it? Charlie Parker sounds like he has more time to plan ahead his solos than all other improvisers. And he is always so soulful.

The Music of Islam, Volume 2: Music of the South Sinai Bedouins

This album totally blew my mind last week. It contains some of the deepest, most groovy music I’ve heard. NO mannerisms.

The Music of Islam, Volume 4: Music of the Arabian Peninsula – Doha, Qatar

Also great.

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Paul McCartney

I love this album. I read that Producer Nigel Godrich told Sir Paul to ditch his band and play most instruments himself. Brilliant move. He also didn’t like some of the songs McCartney brought in and had the balls to tell him that. They made a great record together. This song is really special. Check out the strings at 1:10.