Gilad Hekselman – This Just In – Jazz Village

by | May 28, 2013 | Jazz CD Reviews

Gilad Hekselman – This Just In – Jazz Village [Dist. By Harmonia mundi] JV570013, 50:41 ****:

(Gilad Hekselman – guitar, synths, glockenspiel, producer; Joe Martin – bass; Marcus Gilmore – drums; Mark Turner – tenor saxophone (tracks 2, 3, 9, 13))

Item: Guitarist Gilad Hekselman has a new album. Bulletin: It’s called This Just In and conceptually alludes to the shifts of a typical news broadcast. Flash: And This Just In turns out to be an excellent trio and quartet endeavor!

Hekselman arrived on the New York City scene less than a decade ago (he reached these shores from his native Israel in 2004), and during that time made headway into the vaunted Big Apple jazz arena and since has generated national and international interest from jazz guitar fans seeking the next Pat Metheny, John Scofield or Pat Martino. Hekselman is not yet at the level of those three stars, but he’s got a promising future. The 50-minute, 13-track This Just In is Hekselman’s fourth as a leader and comes on the heels of his 2011 release, Hearts Wide Open, which also included his core band (bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore) and special guest, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner (who performs on three tunes plus one interlude).

Hekselman was inspired by his title track, a stimulating eight-minute piece which evokes the insistence and hastened vibrancy of a breaking news story. “This Just In,” although extended, does not waste any notes. Hekselman’s soloing conjoins dominant, fusion-esque lines with a sturdy but not overdriven force, which is atmospheric and blistering at the same time, complemented by a brisk rhythm set by Gilmore (who joined Hekselman’s group in 2008) and Martin (who has worked with Hekselman since 2004). When Turner and Hekselman combine collectively, they reveal their innate interaction and creative camaraderie. The record’s apex is the one of two covers, Don Grolnick’s “Nothing Personal,” which Hekselman played in his high school jazz ensemble. “Nothing Personal” is best known as a vehicle for another tenor saxophonist, Michael Brecker (it’s on his 1987 debut solo outing). Brecker’s version placed his sax alongside Metheny’s guitar and Kenny Kirkland’s piano. Hekselman dispenses with keys, but maintains a straight-ahead but unconventional climate which challenges the quartet with a complex arrangement, where guitar and sax loop round each other, interlock and sometimes seem to glide above the thematic surroundings. The quartet is also heard, to a lesser extent, on the shorter closing statement, “This Just Out,” which aptly recaps the title track with a shadier, tenser tone filled with uneasiness about what tomorrow’s news may bring.

The eight full-length numbers are segued together by five interlude fragments, each one dubbed as a “Newsflash,” which operate as connecting material. The brief snippets (from fifteen to fifty seconds) were improvised in the studio by the group in the same room, without separation or headphones, which Hekselman says “adds to the album’s vital immediacy.” [Bravo!…Ed.] Listeners will probably respond best to the longer cuts. Each has a singular mood, or as Hekselman states, “Like they’re telling stories from different places in the world.” The omniscient aspect of global communication, with satellites zeroing in on worldwide events, is felt during two trio pieces. First there is an unpredictable revision of the Alan Parsons Project’s 1982 hit, Eye in the Sky. The melodic development obscures the structure on occasion, but the top 40 refrain arises at opportune times. While Hekselman’s fluid soloing may remind some of Martino, Hekselman’s elegant rippling style is reminiscent of pianists such as Brad Mehldau or Keith Jarrett, who have influenced Hekselman, who began on the keyboard as a child but transferred later to guitar.

The nearly eight-minute opener, “Above,” has a similar conceptual idea, but is richer, more unrestricted and shifts from a blithe introduction to a sinewy, speed-steered arrangement. Hekselman soars with multifarious chord runs and notes, while Gilmore’s drumming has a variable percussive quality, while Martin’s bass acts as a tethered foundation. “Above” has a classicist melody and the trio deftly moves from graceful moments to propulsive sections. Another piano inspiration, Frédéric Chopin, can be perceived during the modernistic portrait, “Ghost of the North,” which commences with a low-key movement highlighted by Hekselman’s sensitive guitar, but is underlined by flickering, eerie synth noises and Gilmore’s skittish percussive effects, both which gain momentum in the mix as “Ghost of the North” advances. It is not clear how “Ghost of the North” fits into the project’s news/information flow. “March of the Sad” does reflect the unhappier characteristics of tragic news. Hekselman’s warm tone is the focus of this intricate and nuanced number which also becomes sharp and animated. Gilmore and Martin’s light groove guides the trio forward, while Hekselman skates over the top, implementing absorbing and winding lines throughout. Hekselman changes gears near the album’s conclusion with the wistful “Dreamers,” where he switches to acoustic guitar: “Dreamers” suggests one of those upbeat human interest stories which often end a newscast: this one about two aspiring artists with a promising future. No surprise Hekselman is one of those artists.

TrackList: Above; Newsflash #1; This Just In; Newsflash #2; The Ghost of the North; Newsflash #3; March of the Sad Ones; Newsflash #4; Nother Personal; Eye in the Sky; Newsflash #5; Dreamers; This Just Out.

—Doug Simpson

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