‘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)

‘Infinite Blue’ – Patrick Cornelius

Infinite

I THINK I love this album (there… I’ve said it!). What began as a cursory listen – never a good idea – is already blossoming, after the much longer and closer inspection due, into an exciting and absorbing programme by Patrick Cornelius and a clutch of august, experienced musicians.

‘Infinite Blue’ is a quartet recording, or so it would seem – for when the already sturdy alto sax, piano, bass and drums combo is augmented on a good number of the nine tracks by trombone and/or trumpet, it grows legs and becomes an even more highly charged powerhouse of equally tightly-arranged and creatively-improvised original pieces. The strength of this new album by New York-based saxophonist and composer Cornelius lies in the very apparent display of confidence and intuition which all contributors share and radiate from beginning to end. Respected pianist Frank Kimborough, Whirlwind’s virtuosic Michael Janisch on bass and no-need-for-introductions Jeff Ballard on drums are joined by trombonist Nick Vayenas for five numbers, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet for three.

So what is it that entices so? Well, take a listen to ‘Puzzler’, with the sextet cramming so much into its four minutes. From the off, the pacey tempo and precision arrest the ears with an unbridled, thrilling display of unison writing, launching off into consummate, flighty improvisation from Rodriguez and Cornelius, with Ballard clattering hard on snare and toms (call it hard-bop, post-bop, whatever… but it’s almost worth the price tag alone!). Opening number ‘Regent Street’ shows similar pizazz with Vayenas’ slick, clean trombone soloing and Kimborough’s high flying piano above the secure, swinging rhythm section. ‘Waiting’ – a spacious, mellow offering – finds the close-knit horns suggesting a Big Apple cityscape, Janisch laying down flexing bass both for Cornelius’s yearning alto and a gently caressing high piano line.

The leader’s instrumental delivery is as strong on captivating improvisation as it is for his carefully-scored melodies, an ethic shared by his colleagues. Vayenas’ agile, lustrous trombone adds much to the big ensemble sound (check out his commanding solo on ‘Unfinished Business’); Kimborough and Cornelius communicate restrained, late-night melancholy on ‘In the Quiet Moment’ (one of two numbers as quartet alone); and Rodriguez’s adept brassiness shines throughout.

Photographically, the album sleeve alludes to Patrick Cornelius’s inspiration for his title – a family holiday flight through clear azure skies and a noted-down melody, followed later by his young daughter offering her crayons (and colouring book) to him, one labelled Cielo Infinito; indeed, the title track itself does seem to represent a calm, fresh and easy-going journey. To conclude, the attractive ‘Projection’, written by guest pianist for this track, John Chin, has a relaxed bossa feel (and, to my ears, a particular progression fleetingly reminiscent of McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’!), gliding along to produce uplifting displays from all three frontmen.

Recorded and engineered with great clarity in Brooklyn last October – and releasing on Michael Janisch’s own flourishing Whirlwind Recordings label on 30 July 2013 – further information, sound clips and purchasing options can be found at: http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com/infinite-blue/

I shall keep on listening… and cranking it up loud!


Patrick Cornelius
 alto saxophone
Frank Kimbrough  piano
Michael Janisch  bass
Jeff Ballard  drums
with
Nick Vayenas  trombone
Michael Rodriguez  trumpet
John Chin  piano

http://www.patrickcornelius.com/

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4637 (2013)