Tag Archives: piano

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.

Seven Tips for Composers

9 Jan

Since I’ve been asked about this often, I’ve decided to pile some composing tips and share them with you. I’ve used all of these ideas and they have proven to be very beneficial to my creative process.

1. Repeat.

If you have a good beginning that doesn’t tell you how it wants to proceed, or a complete tune that seems like it can get better and more interesting, try repeating it many times. ‘Many’ can mean 10 or 20, but also a 100 times, until you get what you’re looking for. I’ve done this. The point is to be open for new things to happen every time you repeat the tune. After several times I usually start repeating the music in different keys, meters, tempos, registers, etc. There’s a tape of John Lennon working on Strawberry Fields Forever. It’s startling to hear how loose he is with trying extremely different ways of playing the same song.

Trying other keys is especially effective for finding the continuation of a melody you’re stuck with. Musicians come up with different ideas when playing in different keys, and you will find that the C minor melody that got stuck at bar 8, will miraculously find its next bars when played in Eb minor ,for example.

2. Set an alarm.

Fred Hersch told me he sometimes just picks a pitch (Db, G# etc.) or two as a starting point, sets an alarm for 45 minutes, and writes a tune. The goal is to have something coherent, with a beginning, middle and an ending, by the time the alarm sounds. Then you can come back to the tune in the next days and fix what needs fixing. If you don’t like it you can always throw it away; but it’s a good way to get the creative juices flowing.

3. Have some other music in mind.

I’ve done this with Neila, which is based on an old Jewish ‘Piyut’ (sacred song); with Abutbul, which, being an homage to my friend and great composer Omer Avital, hints at some of his tunes; and with other compositions. It can be a nice starting point.

4. Avoid your instrument.

I compose at the piano a lot, for sure. But some of my music was composed away from it, and I believe it gives it freshness. España was composed on Guitar and voice. Yemen was just sung. The Wedding Song was composed by drumming and singing. Malchut was composed on a keyboard, toying with the (fake plastic) organ sound, which must have inspired the song’s atmosphere.

5. Record a free improvisation and find parts in it you want to develop into compositions.

This is a great method, especially if you are happier with your improvisation skills than you are with your composition abilities. It’s been said that composition is slowed down improvisation, and it’s partly true. But the downside in the process of composing is the fact that you have to stop whenever you hear something that you really like, from fear of forgetting it. Pushing the record button and just going at it for a while does that double trick; It allows you to go on without stopping, while the best moments are being captured for you.

6. Imagine an instrument.

It can be highly beneficial to imagine a specific instrument with a distinct sound playing the melody while you’re composing it. Of course you’ll do that if you’re actually composing for that instrument, but that’s not what I mean; my point is that imagining the sound of a certain instrument can sometimes inspire your melodic writing and send you in new directions. I wrote Oud Song from Introducing Omer Klein while imagining an Oud playing it, and ended up recording it on piano; but I wouldn’t have composed it otherwise.

7. Imagine specific musicians playing with you.

I’ve often composed with people like Omer Avital,  Ziv Ravitz or Haggai Cohen Milo in mind. I really hear the person’s playing in my mind and it immediately gives me a better sense of what the tune can be like and where it could go. I’ve also imagined players I’ve never played with. When I sat down to compose Shalvat Nefesh from Heart Beats, I knew I was going for something a bit more serious and profound. Somehow Charlie Haden and Brian Blade came to my mind. I never played with them but I know their playing very well. I closed my eyes and started playing the song, and their mature presence was just there – as a metaphor, as a guiding force for me to come up with something clean and sincere.

—> I hope this helps!  I would love to hear your input, your experience with these ideas, and other tips. Enjoy making music.

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.

Shwaye Shwaye

6 Feb

Last week I started composing the music for a very exciting theater production in Germany, at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. I’m thrilled to be joining a great group of artists who will be working on this piece.

The play is called Lemon Tree and is based on the 2008 film of the same title, directed by Eran Riklis. (you can read about the film here ).

The film was adapted to the stage by Noa Kenan-Lazar and Anat Rosman, and translated to German by Ruth Melcer.

The director of the production is Dedi Baron; she is one of Israel’s most fascinating theater directors in the 2000’s, and I’m especially excited to be working with her.

I will compose and record new music for this production, playing most of the instruments myself, which should be a nice trip.

During the following weeks I will often share my creative process with all of you, writing posts about the ongoing work, uploading bits of music for you to comment on, share videos and more. It’s going to be an interesting ride and I would love to have you there with me.

On a different note, I recently went back to the recordings of a duo tour with monstrously talented bassist Omer Avital, which we did in the summer of 2009, right after touring Italy together with Avital’s quintet. We played 5 concerts in Israel and recorded all of them. One evening was especially magical, a show at the ‘Zappa Herzliya’ club, and we are planning to release it as a live CD.

Incidentally, that show was also videotaped! Here is a clip of the duo playing “Shwaye Shwaye”, a composition of mine.

FYI, Shwaye Shwaye is an expression in Arabic meaning ‘slow down’, or ‘take it easy’ – always a good advice. Have a nice week!

Hearing Voices

23 Jan

Last week I finished reading Madame Bovary, the 19th century novel by French author Gustave Flaubert. When a book’s original version is in English or Hebrew, I always read the original, since I don’t want to miss what was lost in translation. But I still don’t know French and so I turned to the Hebrew translation by Irit Akrabi, and found it to be phenomenal.

The novel itself deeply moved me. I consider it to be one of the greatest works of art I ever encountered. As it is with all art, grading novels is of course ridiculous; But when I finished reading I couldn’t help but feeling that Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is the only novel I’ve read that rests at the mountain-top of artistic achievement together with Madame Bovary. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Idiot, Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks are among other realistic novels that have inspired me a great deal, but they seem to stand just a step – well, half a step  – lower than Tolstoy’s tale of Anna and Flaubert’s story of poor Emma.

I don’t know if Facebook should be any indication, but I posted the following status: “Just finished reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.. I’m speechless in the presence of such a perfect work of art. Did anyone here read it? What did you think?”. Only one person “liked” the status and also wrote a detailed comment. It was my friend Sophie who happens to be a Literature Professor at the Sorbonne… for comparison, an earlier status about the fascinating dilemma of being a night person vs. a morning person generated seven comments. Could it be that no one cares about these masterpieces anymore?

Anyway, the one thing that struck me the most about Madame Bovary is Flaubert’s voice. I’m using the word ‘voice’ as opposed to ‘plot’ or ‘story line’. In Madame, The plot itself is not especially unique. It does move to extreme places, but compare it with any plot in a Paul Auster or Philip Roth novel and you will find it rather predictable in comparison. I think Flaubert’s real achievement (and this was said many times before, for sure) is not the story but the way he tells it; The Voice. His is full of subtle (and less subtle) irony, a healthy dose of cynicism, emotional warmth in unexpected places, and a penetrating vision as to how society and personal life are interconnected.

The “It’s not the story, it’s how you tell it” principle could easily be applied to Jazz as well: “It’s not the song, it’s how you play it”. Sure, some songs have better melodies, more interesting harmonic progressions and so on. But tell that to Charlie Parker, who transcended the basic form of Gerswhin’s I Got Rhythm to create a revolutionary, personal sound, or to Thelonious Monk, who was the Midas of Jazz, turning everything he touched to Monkish gold. (Monk certainly earned his place in history by playing his own compositions, no doubt about that, but his interpretations of standards are sublimely original. Check out his album Monk Plays Ellington for an extensive example.)

I don’t think that “sounding like yourself” at all costs is what a musician should aim for. Branford Marsalis once said something that really made me think; I don’t remember the exact words, but he basically said he doesn’t need people to always recognize him instantly when hearing his music. On the contrary, he would love it if people would open the radio, hear his new album, and think “man, this is cool! what IS that?”, only to discover later that it was him.

The following process is known to many musicians:

You start out by looking for your “own style”.

You find something you’re happy with.

You begin to eliminate anything that doesn’t fit in, and you work with your newly discovered style for a while.

Some time passes. You realize that this style, that was so you last year, isn’t so you now.

More importantly, you realize that if you’ll keep turning away anything that doesn’t comply with your idea of your “true” style, your art will never grow.

Eventually you understand that you can play anything you want, and that if you will be open minded, let a lot of inspiration flow in, master your instrument, and play whatever wants to come out, you are going to end up sounding great; forget original – just great.

“A great work of art is of course always original” – from Nabokov’s Lolita

“To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body—both go together, they can’t be separated.” –  Jean-Luc Godard

What do you think? Could a boring song become a masterpiece under the hands of a superb artist? On the other hand, are there stories so intriguingly beautiful, that it doesn’t matter who tells them? And what about an original voice in art – do you care for it when listening to music for example, or is it just great music you’re after? It could be of course, that originality and greatness are inseparable. Your comments are welcome.

1997: My First Five Jazz Records

14 Jan

I would like to tell you about the first five Jazz CDs I ever heard. The years were 1996-97, I was 14 or 15 years old. I was living with my parents and brothers in Netanya. For a good 7 years I was playing the piano, which meant learning classical music privately (and NEVER practicing it), learning tons of music by ear (mainly songs by hip Israeli composers like Matti Caspi, Yoni Rechter and Shlomo Gronich), composing many melodies and improvising a lot. Since I haven’t listened to Jazz yet, I was probably improvising out of any musical context; just playing around with some chords and melodic motifs. I don’t remember what I was playing (too bad I don’t have recordings of that!) but I remember it was fun.

Then Jazz records came along and changed everything. I’m reminded of a beautiful phrase Israeli musician Alon Oleartchik once used to describe his falling in love with music: “I was spoiled in such a way, that nothing could have brought me back” (on hearing a Billy Holiday album.)

The first one was given to me by a Jazz teacher. I was attending a good music program at Ort Gutman in Netanya (that was before I moved to the Thelma Yelling High School of the Arts,) and our Jazz teacher was Saxophonist Hovav Ben Sadia, a sweet guy who knew a lot about the music, and still does. He lent me the first Jazz CD I ever listened to, and to be honest, I still need to give it back to him…

It was a record on Pablo from 1974 called Ella and Oscar. Half of it was a duet of Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, and on the other half they were joined by Ray Brown. No drums. This was the first time I heard songs like “April in Paris” (which was heartbreakingly beautiful) and “How Long Has This Been Going On?”. For some reason I was drawn to the lighter tracks, like “Mean to Me” and especially “I Hear Music”, on which Oscar’s solo totally blew my mind. I immediately started transcribing and practicing it. I don’t remember if someone told me it’s something Jazz players do, but I just sat down with my finger on that pause button, and got to work.

I don’t think I transcribed the whole thing. In the first couple of choruses alone, there was so much information; so much new vocabulary that was fascinating to me; and the music also had a great bounce to it; SWING. What a revelation. By the way, speaking of transcribing solos: thinking of my first five records, I realized that I transcribed a solo from each and every one of them! Needless to say, I didn’t go on with this approach – otherwise I would need to learn too many solos. But it’s still an interesting fact, which probably shows how obsessively curious I was about this new and exciting music I was discovering.

I’m not sure about the exact order in which I bought them, but I think the next one I got (meaning the first one I had actually purchased..) was John Coltrane’s 1957 release on Blue Note, Blue Train, with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. I don’t know why exactly, but I didn’t instantly connect with this record. It was one of those times when you are checking something out, you KNOW you should be digging it, but it just doesn’t do it to you. Often, that same thing hits you hard when you go back to it later, and that’s what happened to me with Blue Train. I guess I needed to hear some other music, then listen to it again, this time understanding its context better. However, I do remember being immediately taken by Coltrane’s sound. Even if I still wasn’t sure what to make of the music, that sound of his was just something else. It was beyond music. It had certain qualities about it that appealed to me emotionally. I could hear kindness and good-heartedness through that sound, and that was something I loved about Coltrane right from the start. (A couple of years later I was already a Coltrane fanatic, listening to A Love Supreme for several months straight. I believe It didn’t leave the CD player for half a year.)

Staying true to my transcribing regime, I learned Lee Morgan’s solo on the title track and practiced it like there was no tomorrow. That’s probably the first complete solo I ever learned. It was so much fun playing all those fast 16th notes along with Morgan! Interestingly enough, as opposed to other stuff I was transcribing during that time, I don’t think that anything from that solo really got into my playing. In comparison, the first phrase from the aforementioned Oscar Peterson’s solo still pops up in my solos every now and then.

Next stop: Chick. Someone told me I had to get Chick Corea’s album Light as a Feather (with his band Return to Forever.) The guy had said it so convincingly that I just went to the store and got it; he said there was no chance I won’t love this record, and he was right; I did love it. In certain contexts I really like the Fender Rhodes, and this is easily one of the best Rhodes albums ever made. The sound of Chick’s Rhodes combined with Joe Farrell’s flute and Airto’s percussion.. I don’t know, something about this record simply worked for me. And of course, it had Spain on it – an immortal, everyone-knows-it kind of tune, which, for some reason, all the kids around me thought we have to play . No one was there to tell us we better learn the Blues and Rhythm Changes before we tackle this one, and so I jumped in and learned it. As you can guess by now, I’ve also started to learn Chick’s solo on it, which sounded so awesome; I only got three or four choruses, but there was so much hip vocabulary there! One thing I remember is that he’s arpeggiating an Eb7 chord over an F#7 chord in the first chorus; that was the first time I heard stuff like that! It got me excited and I started to explore harmonic ideas of my own.

Then the next record, another pianist but much more contemporary: Danilo Perez’s Panamonk. That’s actually pretty cool – I bet not a lot of people name this album as one of the first examples of Jazz they ever heard. Danilo released this album in 1996, which means I bought it pretty close to its release date. You might be wondering about the location in which I used to get all these records; it was, of course, the mall. In Netanya’s big shopping mall there was a record store that kept changing owners. It was always a chain of some sort. They had a small Jazz section, and that’s where I was buying my CDs, which means I was dependent on the taste of the guys there who were placing the orders. Panamonk, I assume, is something they received because it was just released, and on a major label.

I listened to the album recently, and I still love this very slick homage to Jazz giant Thelonious Monk. This record planted the seed of two dreams; both of them came true. One was to meet Danilo and perhaps even study with him. And indeed, he was my private teacher for Jazz Piano when I was attending New England Conservatory in 2005-6. The other dream began when I looked at the back cover and saw the personnel. Aside from drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Jeff “Tain” Watts (whom my friends and I were calling JEFTEN), I spotted another name: Avishai Cohen on bass. At the time I haven’t yet heard of him, and I was shocked to find this name, which clearly belonged to an Israeli like me, on the cover of a great Jazz CD, along with some of the best cats on the planet. In one second, being an Israeli guy playing Jazz in New York became a realistic possibility.

That was the seed to the second dream – I will move to New York. I will play at the Blue Note and all those places, and will join this wonderful, mysterious world called Jazz. I ended up doing that.

The fifth was a Herbie Hancock record called The New Standard, and it was probably in the store for the same reason as Panamonk – it was released on a major label in 1996. So I’m putting this in the Stereo in my room, the music begins, and I’m hearing Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Dave Holland AND Jack DeJohnette – all for the first time. Wow. The type of musical experiences you sometime have as a teenage musician.

I now know their playing very well, but back then it was overwhelming. Jack’s full, ever-pulsing ever-changing playing, Herbie’s voicings, Dave digs underneath, Brecker’s solo begins and you hear all this new information, and everything is happenning at the same time. I loved the first track, “New York Minute”, and started learning Herbie’s solo on it, which sounded so cool and fresh. However, I remember disliking a couple of tracks: the solo piano version of “Manhattan” sounded too cheesy to me, and “All Apologies” bored me with its harmonies, that sounded too simple after hearing the rest of the record.

Later on I discovered Herbie’s records on Blue Note from the 60’s and they became a heavy influence on me. Well, later on I discovered many things. Miles, Monk, Parker, Bud Powell, Wayne, Coltrane’s quartet, Tony Williams, Joe Henderson, Dolphy, Ornette… Sonny, Jim Hall, Dexter, Blakey, Evans, Keith, Pat… so much was still ahead of me. Not to mention The Beatles, Radiohead and other rock bands that I’ve discovered about 2 years later.

But this was still way ahead in the future. Those were still the sweet days of having only 5 Jazz records, learning everything you can from them, and dreaming of New York.

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!