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Gilad Hekselman: SplitLife (2007)

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Gilad Hekselman: SplitLife How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Not that long out of school, guitarist Gilad Hekselman has already begun to create a body of work possessing a distinctive lyricism and easily embraceable artfulness that seems to reach beyond his years. Born in 1983 and transplanted to the US from Israel, Hekselman's highly effective debut album—aptly named Splitlife—strides dual worlds, Middle East and West, old world and new, but it's his own personality as both assured player and composer that gives this recording its very personable voice.

He is also worldly-wise in teaming with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ari Hoenig, other New York-based players who have well-stocked warehouses of spirit and technique for this elegant CD, recorded live at New York's Fat Cat.

.Hekselman has a pristine, crystalline sound and a bright playing style that seems as natural and sustaining as air and water. For a quick sampling of how everything goes right on these ten tracks, jump smack into the middle of things to "Suite for Sweets, one of the guitarist's originals. Its sound is "sweet indeed. But the overall effect created by all parties is transfixing, impressionistic and immediate. Fluid and multi-textured, the piece provides an aural snapshot of a fully realized moment in time but is never stagnant. Imagine a brightly lit day, sunlight on water—you are there. If Monet's water lily studies were music this could be it.

Hoenig's cymbals shimmer, his brushes rustle like air through leaves, the pulse of his drums as natural as breathing, with sticks providing extra kick. A bassist of choice for accomplished guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ben Monder and many other fine players, Martin is entirely present, lending a depth charge of warm humanity and sure-fire musicality to this and any circumstance. Hekselman performs with a quiet assertiveness and expertise that is winning throughout.

While other originals like "The Summer of Laughs and Tears and "Breathless glow with steady incandescence, Hekselman has not neglected the Great American Songbook—"I Fall in Love Too Easily, "I Should Care and "My Ideal receive clever interpretations. "When Will the Blues Leave pays apt tribute to Ornette Coleman.

Track Listing: Purim; Hello Who Is It?; My Ideal; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Suite for Sweets; When Will the Blues Leave; The Summer of Laughs and Tears; Breathless; I Should Care; My Second Childhood.

Personnel: Gilad Hekselman: guitar; Joe Martin: bass; Ari Hoenig: drums.

Record Label: Smalls Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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