Gilad Hekselman moved to the United States just five years ago, but already the Israeli jazz guitarist has drawn comparisons to young but fully formed stringed icons like the late Jaco Pastorius and Scott LaFaro. Hekselman is honored, but not quite indebted. In an interview, Hekselman said he looked to other instruments than his own for inspiration, from the ruminative piano lines of Brad Mehldau to the cerebral saxophone riffs of Mark Turner. "To be honest, jazz guitarists aren’t my main influence," Hekselman says. "I try not to listen only to my own instrument."
Which makes sense. If you listen to tracks on his debut album "SplitLife," which drew rave reviews when it was released in 2006, you can hear the quiet crawl and hanging notes of our most sensitive, thoughtful pianists. But don’t think he can’t jam. Like the clarinetist Anat Cohen — who introduced Hekselman to artists in the New York jazz scene when he first arrived, and features him on three tracks of her latest album "Notes from the Village" — Hekselman knows how to let a funky rhythm run. Midway through the song "Purim," which he said got its name because it was composed during the holiday, he lets a Bill Frisellian solo speed away, igniting thoughts of a sunset drive down the Santa Monica shore.
When he spoke to The Jewish Week, he was actually in Israel. And he said that the country still holds a deep claim to his sound. "It’s a part of me," he says. "What’s there [in my music] comes naturally." On his latest album, "Words Unspoken," released last summer, you can hear what he means. The music of Israel’s great rock star Matti Caspi is perceptible throughout a good chunk of the tracks. And as Hekselman continues to drift from his native Israel, he says, "the more I’m finding in the music I was listening to growing up."
Favorite Song at the Moment: Kol Hachalomot (All The Dreams) performed by Arik Lavi. Favorite musical moment: The two times he played with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner were extremely inspiring.
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