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May 2008

Omer Klein
Introducing Omer Klein
Smalls

What has been called the “Israeli-New York City jazz movement” includes many talented players who have come onto the scene through Smalls, the club and the record label: Omer Avital, Avishai Cohen, Gilad Hekselman, Avi Leibovich and now pianist Omer Klein. He is probably the most ethnic musician in this group. The instrumentation of Klein’s quartet (bassist Avital, drummer Ziv Ravitz, percussionist Itamar Doari) implies jazz, and so does the music’s unrelenting energy. But Klein does not present open platforms for jazz improvisation. His tunes are closed circles. They sound like folk songs for the melting pot of the new millennium, with strong Middle Eastern and African elements.

In lieu of linear development, Klein works in complex two-handed patterns that cycle and return and intensify like rituals. Over the obsessive grooves of his rhythm section, what Klein truly seeks is lyricism. Pieces like “Abutbul” and “Netanya” and “The Journey Home” become trancelike incantations of melody. Omer Klein’s music does not offer the challenges of moment-to-moment unpredictability demanded by hardcore postmodern jazz specialists. But, at 25, Klein has the potential to achieve something much rarer for a jazz musician: popularity. What he plays is exotic yet accessible and makes you feel fully alive.

Originally published in May 2008
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