Tag Archives: piano trio

Dancing In The Control Room

18 May

Thanks everyone for coming to the Omer Klein Trio concerts in Germany, Sweden and France.

This trio is constantly growing musically, becoming more open, loose and surprising. Haggai Cohen Milo and Ziv Ravitz are simply the most incredible partners I could ask for!

Here is a video of the trio playing at Fasching Jazz Club in Stockholm, in what was a thrilling Scandinavian debut for us.

The tune is Yemen, composed by myself, and originally appears on my solo piano CD, Heart Beats.

I remember recording that take. My good friend Omer Avital just entered the control room after I finished playing the head in (the initial melody.) We spoke before the session and I knew he would come to the studio to say hi and listen to some takes, but I didn’t know when.

The solo I played on that take (which ended up being the take on the released album) had everything to do with Avital dancing in the control room.

Thank you Jazz Thing TV for posting this video.

I’m playing solo piano, and it’s a new song of mine entitled Something About Love. I think the editing is really thoughful and sensitive. The sound was recorded finely by Radio Bremen.

Next week: Solo Piano at the Loft, Köln, May 23.

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Emotional Value

13 Mar

Lately I’ve been too busy playing and couldn’t blog. That’s a good thing.

I want to thank everyone who have been checking out Four Tips for Improvisers. I’m quite astonished by the amount of readers. I’ll be writing more on this topic, so feel free to send specific questions if you have any.

Shai Maestro, a friend and a great pianist, wrote a beautiful comment on “Four Tips”. It includes a wise piece of advice from Sam Yahel, another great pianist/keyboardist. Thanks for sharing, Shai!

“Sam offered to ALWAYS play in an emotional context. Never practice anything in a mechanical way. Practice as if you had to preform what you are practicing. It can be a very slow tempo, but it has to have an emotional value to it. That way, when you are on stage, and you feel something, your’e brain had already made the connection between the feeling and the action back at the practice room, then it just comes out naturally. It proved itself as one of the best advice Iv’e ever got.”

I recently had mixing sessions with the brilliant engineer Christian Heck, for my upcoming trio album with Haggai Cohen Milo and Ziv Ravitz.

Listening back to the trio, I found myself thinking about my musical and personal relationships.

What I hear in those tracks could only be achieved through quality-time spent together: traveling, talking, laughing, playing live, recording, going through life.

Someone recently asked me about my collaborators. I began naming names, and eventually said “I basically work with my friends”. That’s somehow true. I can’t recall the last time I was on stage, without at least one of the other musicians being a close friend.

Of course, I also play with new people all the time. I love that. You have to do it  if you want to keep fresh and learn new things. But it seems that the ones who become my friends and the ones who become my long-term collaborators are the same people.

I feel very blessed to have in my life people like Omer Avital, Rona Kenan, Alon Lotringer, Ziv and Haggai, and others. With each of these people I have been developing a long-term friendship and a strong artistic bond – we’re playing on each other’s projects, share the bandstand, consult each other.

In my musical life, I cannot think of a bigger asset I have.

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.

How to Make Rockets (on the Balcony)

7 Jan

Last Monday I wrote the introductory post for this blog, but today’s post is the true beginning, and I thought it would be appropriate to begin by sharing some of my insights regarding my new trio album with Haggai Cohen Milo and Ziv Ravitz, Rockets on the Balcony (Tzadik). Here are a few words on how the record was done and what lies in its core.

The music on Rockets On the Balcony is about the multilayered experience of life. One concept that inspired us in creating the album is the tension that exists between simple, enjoyable everyday life on one hand, and the horrors of war on the other. This explains the title: as I’m writing these lines, some of us are shooting missiles or being shot at, while some of us are enjoying cappuccinos on balconies. The tension between these two parallel realities, both valid and true, is one of the keys to what we were trying to convey in this recording.

A quote by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, which appears in the booklet and functions as the motto for the album, illuminates another tension – the one between joy and sadness – as it is being expressed in Jewish Music:

“Jewish folk music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it. It’s multifaceted, it can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It’s almost always laughter through tears… They express despair in dance music.”

The image on the cover, a work by Israeli artist Dafna Ilan, seems to perfectly capture the multilayered experience I’m referring to, and the various complexities that a modern human being encounters culturally, politically, spiritually and so on. This powerful work of art combines a colorful image of a boulevard in Tel Aviv, with a street in Berlin of the 1930’s. The implications are many, and as always with great art, the viewer should find his or her own interpretation.

The same is true with the music on this recording.

Zorn’s Vision

This record began its life in a correspondence between John Zorn and myself, which started in the spring of 2009. (to any of you who needs an introduction to the unique phenomenon that’s called Zorn, here would be a good place to start.) In the back-and-forth emails, John suggested that for my Tzadik debut,I’ll present a set of original compositions; particularly ones that will show the side of my work that is more influenced by Jewish music.

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I wrote to John that sincerely, I wasn’t sure if I knew what’s Jewish in my music and what isn’t. The more I thought of it, the more it seemed to me that I do not have an intellectual solution to this problem.

One day John wrote to me: “You know the difference. For example your song Niggun is obviously Jewish, while Ship of Fools is obviously not.” He was referring to two compositions from Heart Beats, my solo piano record which was released earlier that year. (both tunes are in the Listen section here.) This simple musical example made it clear for me; from now on, I wasn’t going to try and make calculated evaluations as to what counts as Jewish music and what doesn’t. I was simply going to browse through my new compositions and go with my gut.

And so I did. In recent years, I’ve been constantly composing many tunes, usually finding the context in which they should appear only later. In preparation for this recording, I played through all of the music that I have composed in 2009, and also browsed through older songs of mine that were never previously recorded.

It was my conscious decision to let go of the burdening task of deciding objectively what makes a song Jewish. Next thing I knew, I was surprised to discover that after playing the first few bars of any of my tunes, I could immediately feel it intuitively: “Jewish. Not Jewish.” It even makes me laugh now as I’m writing this, since I still can’t say just how I knew it – I simply did. I went on to create the album, but the objective identity of Jewish Music remained somewhat of a mystery.

The Music

Tunes like España and Shir Avoda (Hebrew for ‘Work Song’) were composed in 2009 as part of an exercise I gave myself: write 10 folk melodies. Contradictory as it may seem (how can one intentionally write a true folk melody?), this task did help provoking some music that inadvertently connected me with my Jewish roots. I kept developing the tunes, and España ended up being much too complex for a folk tune; but its roots are still there.

Neila was born from playing around with the old Jewish Piyut “El Nora Alila”. Haggai’s bowed bass can be heard stating this ancient theme explicitly in the introduction and coda of our performance, framing our more modern exploration of it.

The title track Rockets On The Balcony was written on a Tel Aviv balcony on a hot summer night, during the horrifying 2006 Lebanon War. It was composed by singing the melody and playing the chords on guitar.

The Musicians

It’s about time I mentioned my invaluable collaborators on this project, my good friends Haggai Cohen Milo and Ziv Ravitz. My first CD, Duet,  was a piano-bass joined effort with Haggai, summing up a busy year of sharing an apartment in Boston and creating a vast amount of music together. On my second CD, Introducing Omer Klein, which was my debut as a bandleader, Ziv played drums and was, together with bassist Omer Avital and percussionist Itamar Doari, a major force in creating the sound, shape, and vibe of the music.

All this means that in “Rockets” (or how we like to call it in the trio, “R on the B”) I’ve teamed with two of my closest musical associates to create a new whole. In october 2009 we have performed two trio concerts in Belgium, four days apart. I arrived in Belgium from Germany and Ziv and Haggai flew in from New York. On the first evening we only played songs of mine that both of them already knew beforehand. The next day we all went back to my apartment in Düsseldorf, and began workshopping the new music I’ve prepared for this recording. We played for three intensive days. Not only did we learn the new music, we practiced it, arranged and re-arranged it. We tried to find unity in it all and create interesting directions in our own playing.

This post is already long, and I seem to have much more to share about this album! We still haven’t got to the actual recording (with Engineer Mike Perez), the mixing (with Raz Burg at the board) and more. Perhaps I will get to more stuff in the future. However, just to give you a very obvious example of why this record would have never sounded the same without my fellow musicians: The song Heidad was originally written in 4/4 meter, with a simple middle eastern groove. It never crossed my mind to play it in any other meter. During the rehearsals, when I first played this tune to the guys, within 10 seconds Haggai remarked, “This would work well in seven!” – and bang. Here’s the result, played live by the trio, last month in Israel. Enjoy!