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
Jeff Ballard drums (tracks 3 and 10)
JazzVillage (Harmonia Mundi) – SP 9570058 (2015)