Matt’s Picks

New Directions In Improvised Guitar Music

While preparing for the first season of G2E, I found myself listening to a lot of music by dead people. Don’t get me wrong: dead people’s music continues to inspire and amaze me. But they tend to give terrible interviews and they rarely surprise the listener with a sharp change in musical direction. So I thought I might make a listening diary to augment the audio episodes.

I asked a few friends who are considerably hipper than I am to make some suggestions to offset my decidedly moribund playlist. The first entry is courtesy of my friend Emiliano Lasansky, a jazz bass player with true musical depth and an encyclopedic knowledge of what’s out there today.

GILAD HEKSELMAN

Gilad Hekselman was born in Israel in 1983 and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. Gilad coaxes a smooth-as-silk tone out of his custom Victor Baker guitar. I am blown away by the melodic direction of his improvisations and the clarity of his phrasing. His compositions are strong and his taste in musical collaborators indicates a willingness to challenge himself. Here’s his tune “March of the Sad Ones” from 2013’s This Just In, featuring Joe Martin on Bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums:

JAKOB BRO

Moody, intense, experimental, and atmospheric, the Danish guitarist/composer Jacob Bro makes music that could pass for the love child of Sigur Rós and Bill Frisell. There’s no question about the guy’s guitar chops, but it’s his originality and unique arrangements that really stand out to the listener. Attention Jon Brion: the next time you’re looking for a collaborator to score a Charlie Kaufman script, Jakob Bro is your man! I really like Bro’s third installment of his trilogy featuring Bill Frisell, Lee Konitz, Ben Street, Paul Motian and Craig Taborn. The record is called December Song. Check out the tune “Eugnie”:

MARY HALVORSON

With angular compositions and captivating textures, Mary Halvorson is not afraid to set gorgeous melodies over a post-tonal harmonic framework and, just for kicks, add in straight up funkiness. Check out the Mary Halvorson Quintet’s Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music:

Many thanks to Eiliano Lasansky for these recommendations. Emiliano just finished his degree in Jazz Performance at the Eastman School of Music and, in addition to his activities with the Matthew Cochran Trio, is freelancing throughout the Northeast.

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