As his seventh album The Long Run is released on Ubuntu Music, Israeli flautist Mattan Klein continues his ongoing exploration and celebration of Israeli and Brazilian jazz sounds. Profile feature by Nicky Schrire:
Flautist and composer Mattan Klein believes that “music is the ultimate means of connecting between souls. Words can only go so far, but music waves have the power to unite and bring a real change.” His latest quintet recording, “The Long Run”, came out on the UK-based label Ubuntu Music on 14 January 2022 and is a prime example of this mantra. On this recent release, sparkling flute lines weave in and out of Brazilian rhythms, interacting playfully with the sounds of percussion, Rhodes, bass and guitar.
Growing up in Jerusalem, Klein’s sense of his own musical identity was inextricably linked to his surroundings. “The beautiful thing about Israel is the kind of melting pot it has become for people, while the setting – the mountains, the natural beauty – remains. It’s full of people who love taking chances and are adaptable because the country is constantly changing. This motion is captured in the music that is created.”
Bassist Yossi Fine, who has worked with musicians from David Bowie to Gil Evans, was director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival when Klein was invited to perform, told me by email: “When I heard Mattan’s music, I knew he had to be a part of the festival. His dedication to continue in the direction of musicians such as Hermeto Pascoal, who is a tremendous musician and composer and very few can follow his footsteps, is evident in the complexity of Mattan’s compositions.” Fine also added that part of why Israel is home to so many talented young musicians is due to teachers and mentors like Klein. “He develops and nurtures young talent while they are still in high school.”
Klein’s work as an educator includes giving clinics and workshops across Israel, including at the prestigious Thelma Yellin High School for Performing Arts in Tel Aviv where he is an ensemble instructor. He sees himself as “an eternal student,” looking to younger players to challenge his skills as a musician. “It keeps me on my toes,” Klein explains. “One of the most blessed results of my work in education is that a lot of the students I coach end up playing with me. We have this connection which started in a classroom context, where students can be honest, criticise the music, and speak openly.” Practising what he preaches, it was at Thelma Yellin that Klein met two of his bandmates on his new album, bassist Yoni Ben Ari and pianist Toki Stern who were 20 and 18 respectively when “The Long Run” was recorded. The quintet is rounded out by Brazilian percussionist Joca Perpignan and guitarist Nitzan Bar.
The choice of flute in jazz isn’t commonplace. However, Klein’s flute-playing is a particularly fantastic fit for his brand of Israeli-Brazilian music which finds the instrument sounding increasingly contemporary, especially when paired with his virtuosic improvisation.“I don’t see jazz as only straight ahead – it’s the Cuban thing, the African thing, an Indian thing. There are so many different streams within the genre and that’s how I view the flute within it – it’s another stream which allows me to explore all these sub-genres.” Regarding expression through flute, Klein notes it’s the only instrument you don’t blow all your air into in one fell swoop. The sound is created by a certain delicate balance between the air that enters the instrument and the air that doesn’t. “Flute is the only instrument that enables singing while you’re playing. The flute is an extension of my body, so the instrument allows me to express my personality and particular physicalities.”
“The Long Run” is Klein’s seventh album as bandleader, though he notes that it is the fourth album in a line of releases that best demonstrates his approach to composition and musical expression. The common thread between these four albums is “a conscious choice to create original instrumental music which reflects a new state of mind.” Klein expands that this new approach involves being inspired by the ever-growing Israeli jazz scene and rising to new musical challenges, honing in on his practice routine, and learning to be content within the musical moment. The five original tracks on the album were written over several years, in line with Klein’s renewed musical focus. The lone cover on the album is, fittingly, by Hermeto Pascoal.
Klein offers that there are no secrets to the influences in his music. “There’s a Brazilian community in Israel that I used to watch and hear when I was younger. Brazilian music, and South American music in general, has a similar temperament to what we have in the Middle East – the warm weather, the spicy food, people gathering informally to enjoy socialising. I love these shared traits.”
He cites an interview with the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal saying, “Hermeto is an incredible example of blending the traditions of North brazil and folkloric elements, infused with Coltrane changes and sophisticated jazz rhythms. He’s a genius. I heard him being interviewed and he said that music is all about the language of love. The music is his vessel for expressing emotion.” Klein is certainly expressing his emotions and his love for Israel, Brazil and beyond in his artistry in “The Long Run”.
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LINKS: Mattan Klein website
Categories: Feature/Interview (PP)