Gilad Hekselman ‘Homes’ CD (JazzVillage) 3/5

gilad-hekselmanIsraeli born, New York based guitarist Gilad Hekselman is joined by regular bandmates bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore for this, the trio’s fourth release. Drummer Jeff Ballard also guests on a couple of tracks. The core trio undoubtedly benefit from having performed together for years now, delighting listeners with their elegant, intuitive interplay and a cool sense of time and place that suggests the trio know each other so well that they have the freedom to improvise around a tune with an almost telepathic-like understanding. The recording of “Homes” was inspired by Hekselman’s exhaustive travelling and touring, as the guitarist explains; “Being a travelling musician you go to different places, and different places start feeling like home as well. So it’s like this feeling that you have several homes, and sometimes feeling like you don’t have a home…like you’re rootless. But then in a way you have to realise that home is who you are; you’re carrying home on you.” And it has to be said that the music throughout this album really does have that sense of a mixture of feelings that such matters arouse; longing, hope, love, loneliness, peace, warmth and placement/displacement. This is partly due to the themes involved that course freely through the compositions, but also due to the unique style and tone of the guitarist’s playing. Hekselman employs an at times sparse, laid-back style that emits a cool radiance of thoughtfulness and contemplation; one which allows the guitarist to explore complex music with both subtlety and gentle, accomplished skill. The session opens with the title track which acts as a short introduction to the album, followed by “Verona” which gets the trio up and running, working their way around a melodic piece of writing that gradually draws the listener in with its carefully crafted subtleties and nuances. “Keedee” excels with its wonderful two drummer interplay between Marcus Gilmore and Jeff Ballard, richly rewarding. Hekselman switches to nylon string guitar for the lovely solo piece “Home E-Minor” and the even shorter “Space” allows the guitarist to test out a few cosmic sounds, leading into the lengthy piece “Cosmic Patience”. The drums and bass combine wonderfully here to help Heskelman create an electric atmosphere that benefits from some grungy overdubs. The trio show their class on “Eyes to See”, before taking on Bud Powell’s “Parisian Thoroughfare”, a tune that the trio get hold of by the scruff of the neck before loosening their grip and enjoying the freedom that the tune evokes. Great playing from all three musicians and a cracking solo from Heskelman, this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. There’s a warm glow to the excellent Baden Powell tune “Samba Em Preludio”, and Heskelman delivers an interesting, original take on Pat Metheny’s classic “Last Train Home”. The album closes with “Dove Song” and is rounded off nicely with the equanimity that “Place Like No Home” gives us.

It is obvious to me that Hekselman is one of the most intelligent, quietly accomplished guitarists I could hope to listen to. He breathes life into his music through his incomparable skill and devotion. For me though, on this recording at least, there’s just something missing. Perhaps that little bit of magic or spark that ignites a feeling that I’m listening to something very special. It’s hard to explain, and I guess as with all music it’s a personal thing that is difficult to verbalise, but I’m not “feeling” an emotional depth or a rewarding excitement. It is masterful playing from all of the musicians involved, but I don’t have the same sense of engagement or involvement that I do with albums that truly light my fire; for whatever reason that may be.

Mike Gates