‘Tales From a Forbidden Land’ – Eyal Lovett Trio, featuring Gilad Hekselman (2CD)

eyallovett

AN OPENING GAMBOL through Henry Mancini’s The Days of Wine and Roses offers little indication as to what else lies behind the gatefold covers of Eyal Lovett’s double album Tales From a Forbidden Land.

Clearly stated as a trio recording (with double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen and drummer Aidan Lowe), the Israeli pianist/composer also features the mellifluous, pedalled electric guitar hues of Gilad Hekselman in an absorbing programme of, predominantly, his own works. Lovett’s approach and use of instrumentation has a distintinctive aura – specifically, the influence of romantic classical piano (sometimes solo) coupled with sprightly, South-East Mediterranean rhythms and melodies, balanced with an introspective, heart-on-sleeve sensitivity which genuinely becomes enthralling.

Based in Berlin, and regularly touring European venues and festivals, Lovett describes these ‘tales’ as “an attempt to capture some aspects about the experience of being an Israeli artist living abroad”, and says it’s “also a metaphor, for each of us has our own ‘forbidden land’.” It’s an album of discovery, whose fascination never seems to wane (even across two discs); and listening-in feels like a personal, intimate response to the moods which unfold. Entry Point‘s dark, tentative steps over arco bass suggests an almost Tchaikovskian journey into the unknown, albeit with Middle Eastern piano and guitar inflections, whilst Odelya‘s lilting piano jazz acceptance prompts tremulant, gossamer echoes from Hekselman. The riffy bass definition of Daphna Eilat’s A Song For a Beloved Land is more buoyant – sunny, even – with Lowe’s percussion shaping its affable melodies (this band’s sense of control and expression is immaculate); and Hope Without Borders combines lush chordal and melodic piano with a spirited, unified momentum (the inspired connection between trio and guitarist especially reinforced here).

Wistful piano mazurka, Japanese Tale, is typical of the continual thread of emotion, its delicate waltz time brightening to include Hekselman’s pinpoint improvisations; and the more whimsical grace notes of Little Ones relax into sustained Lisztian lyricism, inviting Dahl Knudsen’s sympathetic bass extemporisations (remarkably affecting). Bitter Sweet‘s discordant, major-minor waltz stays long in the memory, diverting along unexpected, textural and rhythmic avenues – perhaps that’s one of the secrets to both the originality and interest of Lovett’s music; and bluesy, crescendoing, Esbjörn Svensson-like Something Begins, Something Ends once again integrates Hekselman, this time in particularly gritty, pitch-bent majesty.

There are so many treasures here – and these eighty-four minutes have, over a period of time, repeatedly called me back to focus on their intricacies and their sincerity. At the moment, I wouldn’t stray far without this very special collection (and the trio’s 2013 debut release, Let Go – with Malte Schiller and Ramiro Olaciregui – offers more sublime beauty). Touring in 2017, a UK visit from the whole quartet would be warmly embraced.

Tales From a Forbidden Land is available, as CD or digital download, from Two Rivers Records at Bandcamp.

Videos: A Song For a Beloved Land and Japanese Tale.

 

Eyal Lovett piano, compositions, arrangements
Kenneth Dahl Knudsen double bass
Aidan Lowe drums
featuring
Gilad Hekselman electric guitar

eyallovett.com

Two Rivers Records – TRR-019 (2016)

‘The Pauper & the Magician’ – Ari Hoenig

AriHoenig

IT APPEARS that US drummer and composer Ari Hoenig’s creativity isn’t confined to the stage and the recording studio. His mostly original music on this eighth release as leader, The Pauper & the Magician, is inspired by the improvised stories he tells to his two small children – specifically, a tale of “a powerful, dark sorcerer who, in a moment of weakness and boredom, passes on his book of evil magic to a pauper.”

Part of the New York scene for almost twenty years, Philadelphia-born Hoenig has contributed to the line-ups of Joshua Redman, Chris Potter and Mike Stern (to name but a few) and has appeared with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis and Gerry Mulligan. His colleagues on this quintet recording are guitarist Gilad Hekselman, tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, pianist Shai Maestro and bassist Orlando le Fleming.

Hoenig’s musical storytelling here is dynamically potent, possessing a distinct aura of fable and mysticism characterised by his propulsive prog-tinged writing and the band’s colourful jazz improvisations; and the drummer’s own ornamented techniques impressively bind the multifarious elements together without dominating. Indeed, the album’s five ‘chapters’ (along with an affectionate, closing ‘goodnight kiss’ track) are spacious enough to slowly unravel their mysterious, shifting storylines. Thus, opening title track The Pauper & the Magician, at almost ten minutes’ duration, weaves a downward-spiralling motif, as if descending into an unknown kingdom, buoyed by mischievously-dancing tenor and piano, Hekselman’s subtle wah-wah rhythms and Hoenig’s perpetually intricate percussion.

I’ll Think About It‘s initial sprightliness conjures big-band swing, though all the while the adventure twists and turns through darker, searching passageways, only to be illuminated again by the strong daylight of rippling piano, jaunty sax-and-guitar riffs and the indubitable flair of Hoenig’s crisp execution. Central to these 46 minutes is the eastern-inflected drama of The Other, its edge-of-seat energy glinting with rapid jazz brilliance. Here, Shai Maestro’s effusive piano dances over the flamboyance of bass and drums as Hekselman and Pennicott share complex, whirling lines; and the relentless anthemic progression confirms the album’s folktale basis.

The particular echoic delicacy of Gilad Hekselman’s guitar style is to the fore in Lyric – a calming jazz interlude whose tender melody (redolent, at times, of Weather Report) is embellished by Pennicott’s tenor phrasing, yet also punctuated by snappy rhythmic flashes from Hoenig’s precise, multi-timbred battery; and Alana is similarly luxurious, Pennicott’s pellucid piano and the measured vibrato of Pennicott’s tenor providing an end-of-journey feel-good. And that ‘goodnight kiss’? Well, Jimmie Davis’ familiar You Are My Sunshine (which might otherwise feel incongruous) cheerily plays out amidst Hoenig’s softly-malleted kit and a generally jaunty jazz demeanour until ‘lights out’.

By turns dramatic and ambrosial, it’s to be hoped that Ari Hoenig might reveal further jazz chronicles of this calibre. Released on 26 February 2016 (in the UK and Ireland, through Lyte Records), The Pauper & the Magician is also available, as CD or download, via links at Ari Hoenig’s website.

 

Ari Hoenig drums
Gilad Hekselman guitar
Tivon Pennicott tenor saxophone
Shai Maestro piano
Orlando le Fleming bass

arihoenig.com

Lyte Records – LR036 (2016)

‘Homes’ – Gilad Hekselman

GiladHekselman

AN ALBUM which, interestingly for this reviewer, needed ‘space and time’ to understand and fully appreciate its varied nuances seems to be summed-up well by the title of one particular track at its mid-point… Cosmic Patience!

Based at the heart of New York’s jazz scene, the flourishing reputation of Israeli electric/acoustic guitarist and composer Gilad Hekselman has found him playing alongside artists such as John Scofield, Avishai Cohen, Ari Hoenig and Tigran Hamasyan; and worldwide tours have taken in Montreux, Montreal and North Sea jazz festivals.

Fifth solo release, Homes, is an especially crystalline trio recording, the crisp, often delicate openness of Hekselman’s technique shared by longtime band colleagues Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums), with Jeff Ballard guesting on two numbers. There’s a distinct craft to the guitarist’s style; not the solid, upfront soloing of John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth or Mike Stern, but predominantly a more measured, mobile and understated delivery which needs careful attention – no bad thing. And this more dialogous approach turns the key on the album’s title, a suite of twelve pieces reflecting Hekselman’s physical, geographic, musical and spiritual homes.

Such a sense of reflection is echoed in occasional, sparse miniatures which contrast with Hekselman’s otherwise broad, colorfield canvases (classically-tinged opening title track Homes is a mere 37 seconds’ duration). Indeed, this outing feels like a promenade through a virtual gallery, as the trio create a range of sizes, textures and atmospheres. Verona intimates the romantic influence of this Italian ‘Romeo and Juliet’ destination, as the guitarist’s high, flighty improvisations mingle with animated bass and percussion; and brief solo acoustic Home in E-minor could melt the stoniest of hearts. But this album isn’t all mellowness, as proven in rapid, erratic, Ghanaian-imbued KeeDee (with Jeff Ballard adding percussive fireworks on that very instrument, a kidi drum) – a joyful celebration, as is Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare which, here, swings diaphanously (quite distinct from its piano trio origin), with Martin’s fast-walking bass and Gilmore’s tight drum detail adding significantly to Hekselman’s fretboard verve.

Then there’s that centrepiece, eleven-minute Cosmic Patience, floating intergalactically against nebulous synth echoes, with Hekselman’s radiophonic guitar tone adding another dimension; and all the while, bass and drums hold a steady course. This Methenyesque exploration is echoed later with an interpretation of Pat Metheny’s classic Last Train Home – although it loses something of the journeying impetus of the original, its light, dancing samba groove becomes increasingly attractive. Baden Powell’s Samba Em Prelúdio’s affecting Latin melancholy is carried both eloquently and deftly by the trio, Hekselman’s amplified higher register so precise; and bold, statuesque Eyes to See possesses an anthemic breadth quite unlike anything else heard on this album.

Gilad Hekselman’s versatile signature guitar sound demands focus – but it’s that very detail, in conjunction with the sensitivity of his personnel, which becomes the attraction.

Released on the JazzVillage label, Homes is available from Harmonia Mundi’s store, as well as other retailers and iTunes.

 

Gilad Hekselman guitars
Joe Martin bass
Marcus Gilmore drums
with 
Jeff Ballard drums (tracks 3 and 10)

giladhekselman.com

JazzVillage (Harmonia Mundi) – SP 9570058 (2015)