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Open Secrets: A Triumvirate of Israeli Guitarists

Tom Greenland By

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Gilad Hekselman
Words Unspoken
LateSet Records
2009


Oren Neiman
Frolic & Detour
Noyman Music
2009


Yotam Silberstein
Next Page
Posi-Tone
2009




It's an open secret that Israeli jazz musicians are becoming a force on the New York scene, epitomized by three young guitarists, Gilad Hekselman, Oren Neiman and Yotam Silberstein. Each was born in the Holy Land, plays a blond Gibson hollowbody and boasts a strong sophomore release.

Hekselman's Words Unspoken is a trio date with Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums), half standards, half originals, augmented on several tracks by Joel Frahm (tenor sax). Using a clean, lightly reverbed tone, his style alternates between glissed legato runs and hard-picked staccato tattoos, with punchy comp chords interjected between phrases, producing varied inflections and subtle contrasts. Playing fast and loose, impatiently pushing ahead, then pausing to catch the pulse, he leaves just enough space within his dense lines for a quick breath. The songs are tastefully harmonized and gently ornamented, aptly orchestrated across the fretboard. "Time After Time" features stop-and-go rhythm section counterpoint, "How Long Has This Been Going On?" is given a "Poinciana" bounce and Hekselman's own "New York Angels" contains fine chord soloing.

Oren Neiman, at 31, is the 'old' man of the triumvirate, but his Frolic and Detour is youthfully original, a guitar-trumpet quartet - featuring Kenny Warren, plus Doug Drewes (bass) and Kenny Shaw (drums) - that mostly avoids traditional jazz idioms in favor of an aesthetic drawing on pan-Mediterranean folk and gypsy musics. In this all-original setlist, "Jerusalem" might be a Spanish funeral march, "Munch's Child" a gypsy dance, "Points of View" an Italian wedding song, "Unshines" an Eastern European folk tune and "Lijiang" a lilting Congolese soukous. Gross characterizations aside, Neiman's writing is both eclectic and unified, often featuring Warren's Old World vibrato, doubled guitar-bass counterlines and unusual rhythmic accent patterns. Neiman's style, treble-toned and introverted, accentuates singing, unpredictable melodies.

Yotam Silberstein came to New York five years ago and matriculated at The New School. For Next Page he enlisted Sam Yahel (organ), who punches out left-hand basslines as he digs an ever-deeper groove, Chris Cheek (tenor sax), a high-concept player with plenty of natural flow, and Willie Jones III (drums) for a mixed set of originals and covers. Silberstein's style employs a dark, mid-rangy tone, bluesy bends and a swing-based rhythmic concept - along with out-of-key melodic detours and a penchant for hard-driving odd time signatures. "Borsht" is a soul-jazz 'waltz' in 5/4, "Weekend in Mizpe" floats a graceful melody over descending chords in 7/4 and "Jalastra" is moody and postmodernistic. The well-chosen covers include Charlie Parker's off-kilter blues "Cheryl," Jobim's curiously harmonized "Ligia" and "Ani Eshtagea," a serpentine minor melody in fast 6/8 time.


Tracks & Personnel

Words Unspoken

Tracks: Ga'agua; New York Angels; April in Paris; Words Unspoken; Countdown; Someone to Watch Over Me; Yo Mama's Blues; Time After Time; How Long Has This Been Going On; Will the Song Ever End?.

Personnel: Gilad Hekselman: guitar; Joe Martin: bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone.

Frolic & Detour

Tracks: Jerusalem; D-Day; Munch's Child; How She Sleeps; Points of View; Unshines; Homeland Stupidity; Lijiang; Peradventure.

Personnel: Oren Neiman: guitar; Kenny Warren: trumpet; Doug Drewes: bass; Kenny Shaw: drums.

Next Page

Tracks: Borsht; Foolin' Myself; Ani Eshtagea; Cancão; Blues for 007; Weekend in Mizpe; If Ever I Would Leave You; Jalastra; Ligia; Cheryl.

Personnel: Yotam Silberstein: guitar; Sam Yahel: organ; Willie Jones III: drums; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone.

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