Gilad Hekselman has been developing a reputation as one of the most promising guitarists in New York since his arrival in 2004. In only a few years this native Israeli has shared the stage with some of the greatest artists in the New York jazz scene including Chris Potter, Mark Turner, John Scofield, Anat Cohen, Ari Hoenig, Esperanza Spalding, Sam Yahel, Jeff Ballard, Gretchen Parlato, Avishai Cohen, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Tigran Hamasyan, Aaron Parks and Greg Hutchinson.
He has played all the major jazz clubs in New York including the Blue Note, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy's Club and Smalls. He is constantly touring world-wide and has played most major jazz festivals including Montreux, North Sea, Montreal and San Francisco.
Gilad is the winner of the 2005 Gibson Montreux International Guitar Competition. He opened for guitar legend Paco de Lucia at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2006, which led to a string of performances at the IAJE Conference and at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York.
That same year Gilad released his debut album SplitLife (Smalls Records) recorded with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ari Hoenig. It received rave reviews from the press as did his second album, Words Unspoken (LateSet Records), recorded and released in 2008 with Joe Martin, drummer Marcus Gilmore and tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm.
In 2009, Gilad recorded three tracks for Walt Disney Records, one of which was included in the record Everybody Wants To Be a Cat (2011). The album features versions to Disney songs played by a top-shelf lineup of musicians including Dave Brubeck, Joshua Redman, Esperanza Spalding, Diane Reeves, Roy Hargrove, Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Bad Plus and many other jazz legends.
In the spring of 2010 Gilad recorded his third album, Hearts Wide Open, with Joe Martin on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums and world-renowned saxophonist Mark Turner, a project that Gilad defined at the time as his "best recorded work so far". The record received rave reviews globally and was featured in many Best-of-2011 lists such as New York Times, Amazon and iTunes.
In April of 2013, Gilad has release his fourth album, This Just In, under the JazzVillage label of Harmonia Mundi. Recorded and engineered in New York by Michael Cisneros Perez, the new album with Gilad Hekselman, Joe Martin, and Marcus Gilmore also features Mark Turner on three titles.
Born in Israel in 1983, Gilad studied classical piano from age six and began studying guitar at the age of 9. From age 12 to 14 he performed regularly with the band of a weekly children's television show. He attended the prestigious Thelma Yellin School of Arts, graduating with excellence from the jazz department at age 18. Gilad received the America - Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship for studies abroad to attend The New School in New York, where he completed a BFA degree in performing arts in 2008.
Gilad performs on handcrafted guitars made by Victor Baker.
September 13, 2011
Ben Ratliff, NY Times
“Hearts Wide Open”
(Le Chant du Monde)
Gilad Hekselman, a young Israeli musician living in New York, has become important over the last five years — if not yet to jazz listeners in general, at least to the serious-minded subculture of jazz-guitar students. In that time he’s performed almost constantly with his trio and guest players at the West Village clubs Smalls and Fat Cat, and one can tell: he plays the long sweeps of notes, harmonically mobile and emotionally humid, that have grown like vines in those places.
Fifteen years ago he probably would have been signed to a major label. 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. Since 2007 he has made two fine records (“SplitLife” and “Words Unspoken”) without much notice. His third, “Hearts Wide Open,” brings a better group sound, better tunes, better soloing. This is where you, the listener, should come in.
Mr. Hekselman’s rhythm section includes the bassist Joe Martin and the drummer Marcus Gilmore. They’ve been performing these original songs for a while, and they know their dynamics, supporting quiet music with authority. (Mr. Gilmore, in particular, rushes into the available spaces like water, complementing the guitar’s rhythmic shapes with his own.) The tenor-saxophonist Mark Turner plays on most of the album too, and opens hidden rooms of his talent; on the second half of the track “Understanding,” the music turns almost gospel, and an even-tempered musician goes credibly gutbucket.
Crucially, this record isn’t only understandable as jazz-guitar music, a maze of speed and soloing. Some of these tracks — particularly “Hazelnut Eyes,” his high mark so far, with its beguiling chorus that helps seven and a half minutes fly by; the folklike “Flower”; and the short, free-rhythm “Will You Let It?” — are actually songs, singable, playable on other instruments. They are melodies that stay with you.
He’s also found a further refinement in his improvising: at places, among all the displays of study and practice, he’s able to detach from a song’s chord changes and the rhythm and play more freely, in a manner that suggests Paul Bley or Ornette Coleman (whose melody for “Blues Connotation” he keeps gesturing toward in “The Bucket Kicker”). He’s on a good road, and he’s still moving. BEN RATLIFF
"The feeling in a small club quickly grows intense when GILAD HEKSELMAN, an Israeli jazz guitarist in his mid-20s, steps up to improvise. Since arriving in New York five years ago, Mr. Hekselman has set himself roughly up in the line of Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel, with a warm and clean guitar tone, clear articulation, crazily extended improvisational ideas, speed when he needs it, an advanced understanding of harmony, and the flexibility to go wherever his bands want...
Ben Ratliff, New York Times
"...Mr. Hekselman, playing complex chords with extended harmony — the higher science of jazz academia, but done with passion — moved his solo toward a peak. About two minutes in, the audience began yelling."
Ben Ratliff, New York Times
"Mr. Hekselman is a guitarist who favors a clarity of tone and purpose, and who surrounds himself with strong talent."
Nate Chinen, New York Times
"possessing a distinctive lyricism and easily embraceable artfulness that seems to reach beyond his years... Hekselman has a pristine, crystalline sound and a bright playing style that seems as natural and sustaining as air and water... Imagine a brightly lit day, sunlight on water - you are there. If Monet’s waterlily studies were music this could be it... Hekselman performs with a quiet assertiveness and expertise that is winning throughout..."
Laurel Gross, All About Jazz
“...Gilad Hekselman's SplitLife (Smalls Records) is everything one could hope for in a debut release. The Israeli-born guitarist shows maturity beyond his years... In terms of time feel, technique, tone projection and linear and chordal sophistication, Hekselman is clearly poised to reach the highest ranks on his instrument.”
David Adler, Jazz Times
“Hekselman is a subtle player who holds the spotlight with tasteful runs. He seeks out transcendental lines and often finds them... Hekselman doesn't clamor for attention. His playing, though, is quietly persuasive."
Karl Stark, Philadelphia Inquirer
“The debut recording by guitarist Gilad Hekselman has the youth displaying a mature sound, the ability to think fast, and an inventive use of space.”
Scott Yanow, Allmusic
“... some people are so damned talented at so tender an age. Move over Scott LaFaro, Charlie Christian, and Jaco Pastorius for Gilad Hekselman... demonstrated to any discerning guitar-centric listener that there is indeed room for another mover and shaker. I don’t think I can overestimate the 23-year old’s... talents... ability to express emotional force in a quiet setting... promising composer...his unpretentious earnestness that sets him apart from anyone else who might come to mind...this young man is in the business of making beautiful music... In terms of technical ability one should note his contrapuntal lines incorporated into the aforementioned ballad, and his flawless, liquid delivery and clean, mid-range tone. In other words, this unassuming upstart seems to have it all... a mature, young man with the best intentions and a warm heart big enough to slay any giant on the horizon”
Charles Winokoor, Cadence Magazine
“...Martin and Hoenig fuse with Hekselman on every level – technically, emotionally and spiritually – to create music that is very much in the moment... It's said that with great musicians, the greatness lies not in the notes they play, but in the notes they don’t play. Split Life is a textbook testament to the truth of that statement.”
Roman St. James, jazzreview.com
“Who needs a second guitarist when you have fingers like these?“
Bob Keelaghan, Guitar One Magazine