Words and photos by Garry Corbett
Question; how much a part does our mood play in how we experience music? I mean the mood we are in ourselves at the point of that experience and of course the mood of the musicians delivering the music. Ponder that question while I reflect upon my experience of the Gilad Hekselman Trio at Silvershine Jazz Club on the evening of November 22nd, 2015.
The audience provided an abundant cross-section of ages and gender though there was a definite coterie of young male student types near the stage. These I imagined were Hekselmanians from his earlier workshop at the club. I looked across later in the evening to see them sat admiringly wide-eyed to a man obviously taking in every nuance of the guitar masters performance. Quite rightly so.
This was my second encounter with Gilad Hekselman’s music in performance. The previous time had been a solo performance in this very venue earlier in the year. That had been a warm intimate evening with a packed audience relishing every number. I was looking forward to hearing what the guitarist would do in a trio setting. As the lights dimmed, and the musicians took to the stage, it was clear that I was not alone in my anticipation.
From the opening number, ‘March of the Sad Ones’ from Hekselman’s album, ‘This Just In’, it was clear that what we were witnessing was not a guitarist plus accompaniment but a real band at work. The close triangular arrangement of the musicians allowed me to witness close-up those subtle appreciations of each other’s work, the eye contact and the smiles. Also the beautiful ringing tone of Hekselman’s custom Victor Baker guitar made for him by the New York maker. The music proved more powerful live than I’d expected, based on repeated plays of his latest album ‘Homes’ in the days prior to the gig. I’d become accustomed to its beautiful production sound. The live trio had a lot more edge. The opening number was followed by ‘B’s Blues’ – dedicated to the guitar’s maker. This was a fast affair with plenty of animation from all concerned, including some solid drumming from Kush Abadey underpinned by the bass of Joe Martin, who has played on Hekselman’s recent albums.
By the third number, ‘Verona’ we were into material from the latest album, ‘Homes’.
This is one of the album’s stand-out tracks, and didn’t disappoint here, instilling a calmer mood following on from the previous number. ‘Verona’ featured some lovely woody sounding bass from Joe Martin and a clear precise solo from the guitarist who seems incapable of keeping still while playing as though every note is telegraphed from shaking head to fingers via telepathy. ‘Keedee’ was introduced as being, “influenced by some African drumming classes I took a while back”. This opened with Abadey’s drums talking to us then taking us into a beat which shifted and turned with more fire and speed than the album version, with everyone seeming to solo simultaneously as the number propelled along punctuated by the guitarist’s BeBop runs. ‘Eyes To See’ began with the tick-tock of Abadey’s rim-shots then one brush, one stick drumming until the volume rose higher with a dynamic reverb enveloped solo from Hekselman before subsiding into near silence finally.
Elsewhere we were treated to, “the oldest number I’ve written in tonight’s set”, ‘Purim’, a straight ahead boppy piece. A “love song to music”, ‘Doh, Re, Me, Fa, Sol’ the only number to survive from the solo set I’d witnessed a while back. A lovely simple almost nursery-rhyme tune which put me in mind of Pat Metheny’s version of Jimmy Webb’s ‘The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress’ except Hekselman’s tune incorporates the band’s whistling the melody – something I could never imagine Metheny doing. It worked charmingly.
The final number of the evening, the title of which was lost to me was the most FX laden and abstract with Hekselman using his pedals to great effect. It came back to Earth with a fine bass solo from Joe Martin and drum punctuation from Kush Abadey which ended the number ever so slightly raggedly with a series of fast rim-shots.
A much deserved encore came in the form of ‘Samba Em Preludio’ a Baden Powell tune also featured on ‘Homes’ which rounded off a superb evening’s music, with Hekselman’s solo delicately picking out the melody while bass and drums provided a gorgeous cushion.
By now you will have forgotten my opening question. The answer is of course yes. I had come to this gig in frankly not the best of moods following a day which began with a photographic mix-up. By the end of the evening thanks to some elevating, stimulating and moving music from a guitarist with a great future ahead of him. If the last ten years or so are anything to go by, I left floating on air. Thank you Gilad Hekselman and the good people at Silvershine Jazz Club.