The Israeli-born pianist Tom Oren didn’t have to look far for inspiration: His mother, Dorly Oren-Chazon, is herself a renowned pianist and composer who has also made a profound mark in music pedagogy and as the inventor of music-teaching instruments. Mom started the boy on classical piano at age six and soon introduced him to the great jazz pianists. It all paid off: In 2018, following years of formal music schooling at Berklee and elsewhere, Oren won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition. Now, on Dorly’s Song, he repays his mother with his interpretations of 10 songs she mostly wrote before his birth.
Oren sticks largely to the standard piano trio format—working with bassist Barak Mori and drummer Eviatar Slivnik—with guest saxophonist Eli Degibri providing additional body on some of the material. Oren is a formidable player, and his rhythm section is in step with him throughout; Oren-Chazon’s material provides them with multiple opportunities to display their range. “Mrs. Barbarelli” is especially entertaining: Slivnik sets up a skipping rhythm that Mori is all too happy to pick up on. Degibri’s opening melody is spare and dynamic, and soon enough Oren is in there sparring with him, the pair careful to leave plenty of spaces that reveal the song’s depth. “Zoo” allows for more complexity, Oren shifting from understated to overpowering before the halfway mark arrives.
Oren is particularly fond of arrangements that escalate from ballad to driving powerhouse: “So Angela” floats along airily until, near its conclusion, it bursts wide open, while “Melody” wanders easily and then, so subtly you may not even notice, begins kicking up serious dust. It all ends with an earthy blues, “Give Me Peace,” that suggests other potential routes to be followed. An impressive debut.Originally Published