Today, we’re talking to jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman about his brand-new release on the Harmonia Mundi label called Homes. Hekselman’s just barely dented his 30’s but he’s nonetheless established a solid reputation among jazz fans as a thoughtful and melodic improviser. He’s currently based in New York, and he’s made the rounds at all those legendary New York clubs. You know, like the Blue Note, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s, Smalls…and he’s becoming a fixture at international festivals too, like Montreux, North Sea and Montreal. I was introduced to Gilad Hekselman’s music relatively recently. I was on a rehearsal break with my trio. The bass player in that group is a guy named Emiliano Lasansky. Emiliano has this encyclopedic knowledge of jazz music so I’m always bugging him for listening recommendations and I’m never disappointed. In this particular conversation, I asked Emiliano to give me some names of jazz guitarists that I haven’t heard of but need to know about. Of course, Gilad Hekselman was the first name he mentioned. So I looked him up.
The first tune I came across was “March of the Sad Ones” from Hekselman’s 2013 record This Just In which features Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. “March of the Sad Ones” highlights Hekselman’s compositional voice and a certain vocal quality that permeates his phrasing. There are these beautiful moments of silence that he really lingers on. And though I hate to make these sorts of comparisons, I can’t help but be reminded Chet Baker, and maybe a little bit of Bill Evans in Hekselman’s melodic lines. I chatted with Gilad Hekselman via Skype. He’s in Copenhagen right now, in the middle of what sounds like a pretty sweet residency.
Gilad attended a performing arts high school in Israel, and at the age of 18, he was awarded the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship to attend the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. That was 2004. The next year, he won the Gibson Montreux International Guitar competition. He started playing around, formed a trio, made his first CD. So now, ten years into his career, Gilad Hekselman has just released his fifth CD under his own name, which is called Homes. It features longtime trio members Joe Martin and Marcus Gilmore, along with an appearance by Jeff Ballard, who is currently the drummer for Brad Meldeau. Ballard shows up on the track “KeeDee”, and he and Marcus Gilmore just go to town on this introduction.
The thing that makes Homes special to me is that it has this very intentional thematic unity to it, but the project never feels pretentious or grandiose. It’s more like a conversation that keeps returning to the same topic. But, you know…coming at it from different angles. There are actually four tunes on the record with the word “home” in the title, which is probably enough of a reference point to create a sense of, I dunno, coziness or comfort maybe, for the casual listener. But the theme goes deeper than that if you’re willing to dig in a bit. There’s actually a musical theme that Hekselman brings back a few times.
So we’ve established that there’s this motivic material that sort of shows up throughout the record. But like I said, it’s not some kind of laborious Lars Von Trier hit-you-over-the-head-with-the-concept kind of rhetorical device. The theme just provides a kind of mooring which gives the listener the sense that the record is more than just a random collection of tunes. I think that spirit is particularly evident in Hekselman’s choice of covers, and specifically his treatment of those covers. Take Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” for example. It’s a pretty sentimental tune. I mean, of course it’s totally gorgeous in Pat’s hands, but Gilad’s cover goes in a very different direction, particularly in the rhythm section, which I think ends up working really well.
To me, the emotional centerpiece of Gilad Hekselman’s Homes is a song called “Eyes to See”. Musically, it’s through-composed, without a whole lot of improvisatory flourishes, and the trio generates a ton of empty space throughout their performance which, I dunno, just feels right…
Goes2Eleven is taking a break next week so we can put in a little extra time on a show we’re preparing about music copyright law. You’ve probably heard about recent settlements involving Sam Smith and Tom Petty, or that “Blurred Lines” verdict that has Robin Thicke, Farrell Williams, and company paying out a pretty hefty sum to the children of Marvin Gaye. It’s a fascinating topic, I’m really excited about some of the conversations I’ve been having with experts in the field who can hopefully shed some light on this topic for us.
Goes2Eleven is production of Chuckleberry Flynn Music, produced and written by Matthew Cochran. G2E’s research team is Ciyadh Wells and Cole Hankins. The theme music for our show is from my latest collection of original tunes called Vapor Trail from a Paper Plane, which you can find on iTunes, Amazon, and at matthewcochranguitar.com
“Cicadas at the Equinox” from Vapor Trail from a Paper Plane, written and performed by Matthew Cochran
“March of the Sad Ones” from This Just In, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman.
“Cosmic Patience” from Homes, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman
“No Blues” from Smokin’ at the Half Note, written by Miles Davis, performed by Wes Montgomery and the Winton Kelly Trio
“Darn that Dream” from Undercurrent, written by Jimmy Van Heusen, performed by Bill Evans and Jim Hall
“Purim” from Split Life, written by Gilad Hekselman, performed by the Gilad Hekselman Trio
“KeeDee” from Homes, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman
“Homes” from Homes, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman
“Always By Your Side” from Time Line, written and performed by Ralph Towner
“Place Like No Home” from Homes, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman
“Home in E Minor” from Homes, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman
“Last Train Home” from One Quiet Night, written and performed by Pat Metheny
“Last Train Home” from Homes, written by Pat Metheny, performed by Gilad Hekselman
“Eyes To See” from Homes, written and performed by Gilad Hekselman
Samba em Prelúdio from Homes, written by Baden Powell, performed by Gilad Hekselman