In a review of the guitarist Gilad Hekselman‘s 2011 album, Hearts Wide Open (Le Chant du Monde), The New York Times‘ Ben Ratliff writes: “Crucially, this record isn’t only understandable as jazz-guitar music, a maze of speed and soloing. Some of these tracks…are actually songs, singable, playable on other instruments. They are melodies that stay with you.”
“Fifteen years ago he probably would have been signed to a major label,” notes Ratliff. “You might already have read about him in a men’s magazine, or seen his face on a display rack at Tower Records. But the jazz business is more modest and artist-directed now.” Yet Gilad is thriving in this climate, in no small part due to his knowledge of his instrument, and of the music. Nate Chinen’s Best of 2011 list in The New York Times describes his playing as “an object lesson in the high bar facing a young jazz guitarist today…so much fluid knowledge it’s scary.” Chris Potter, Mark Turner, John Scofield, Ari Hoenig, and Esperanza Spalding are among several bandleaders who agree, apparently; they’ve all appeared onstage with the young guitarist.
Gilad was born and raised in Israel, and began his musical training on the piano at age six. Picking up the guitar shortly thereafter, he continued to hone his abilities through performance (even appearing for a time with the band on a children’s television show) and academics. After graduating from the highly reputed Thelma Yellin School of Arts, the young guitarist moved to New York to attend the New School on a scholarship. While still a student, Gilad won the 2005 Gibson Montreux International Jazz Guitar Competition, opened for the guitarist Paco de Lucía, and released his debut album, 2006’s SplitLife (Smalls Records). Before long, he followed with more acclaimed recordings: 2009’s Words Unspoken (LateSet), and 2011’s Hearts Wide Open (Le Chant du Monde).
On April 9th, 2013, Gilad released his most recent album, This Just In (JazzVillage), featuring his frequent collaborators Joe Martin (bass), Marcus Gilmore (drums), and Mark Turner (saxophone). The album takes a formal “cue from that rapid-fire information stream” that is the modern day news cycle. Gilad speaks: “Each one of these pieces has a totally different mood to it, like they’re telling stories from different places in the world.”
We’ve been presenting Gilad in various contexts for several years, and we look forward to hosting another one of his projects on Saturday. The group will feature the keyboardist Shai Maestro, who will play both Fender Rhodes and piano, and the drummer Justin Brown.
Watch Gilad’s quartet performing live in France.