COUNTING BEATS

Reviews and Recommended Jazz by Nick Bewsey

Category: Joe Martin

GILAD HEKSELMAN, THIS JUST IN

At his CD release gig at the Jazz Standard in NYC last month, one of the things that guitarist Gilad Hekselman revealed to me about the making of his fourth album This Just In was that “all of the pieces were recorded with the band together in the studio, without even the separation of booths,” which is a significant distinction since it creates an immediacy and creative bond between musicians – something that comes through loud and clear on this recording. Central to the album’s success is the communication that Hekselman has with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore, two of the most versatile sidemen in New York as well as tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who plays on three tracks.

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ANAT COHEN, CLAROSCURO

The clarinetist and multi-reedist Anat Cohen has a sound that speaks in an array of brilliant colors. As a performer and leader, (she recently kicked off the release of “Claroscuro” on Anzic Records with a six night gig at the Village Vanguard, a comfortable space that she called “one big living room”) Cohen knows how to pull a listener in, feeding on the attention of her audience as much as her quartet to rapturously blow through standards old and new and absorbing originals, too. She’s a charmer who connects emotionally and you walk away both thrilled and thoroughly entertained – all of which is nicely conveyed on the disc.  Continue reading

GILAD HEKSELMAN, HEARTS WIDE OPEN

The prologue and epilogue of “Hearts Wide Open” (Chant du Monde Records) may be dusted with carefree whistling but in between the guitarist Gilad Hekselman arrays eight seriously great originals that gracefully expand the horizons of jazz guitar with melodious rock and folk influences. His phrasing has a satisfying fullness while his solos have a way of connecting deeply. Songs like “Hazelnut Eyes” and “The Bucket Kicker” match the guitarist with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore and the musical effect is that of a larger band where Hekselman’s silky arrangements and orderly runs are skillfully underscored by nimble bass notes and percussive rhythms. Other tracks add saxophonist Mark Turner to the mix, most effectively on “One More Song,” a whirling folk-inspired narrative with a melodic hook that the saxophonist turns over and over on the chorus. Drummer Gilmore invokes the usual awe with his profound timekeeping. His fills and dexterous sense of swing is starkly evident on “Brooze,” a slow blues with a lazy gait and a hot center that’s set afire by Hekselman’s electrifying solo. Somewhat unusual for a jazz record, the guitarist makes room for a power ballad called “Understanding” that heaves under a sturdy backbeat and emotive melody that signifies the guitarist’s cool confidence. An Israeli native and New Yorker since 2004, Hekselman successfully plumbs the zeitgeist of his peers, striking a perfect balance on “Hearts Wide Open” between accessibility and the improvised go-anywhere storytelling that is progressive jazz. (10 tracks; 60:14 minutes)

JAKE SASLOW, CROSBY STREET

Saxophonist Jake Saslow does a terrific job on his debut album, “Crosby Street” (14th Street Records) which sounds like the work of a confident veteran. He has a relaxed sound, tuneful yet conversational and the recording spotlights a leader with an extraordinarily empathetic band. And Saslow gives these musicians plenty of space to bring his compositions to life. The group includes guitarist Mike Moreno whose fragrant solos provide smooth grooves (“Early Riser”) and jangly punctuation (“Lucky 13”). Pianist Fabian Almazan also impresses with harmonic invention (“Taiga Forest”) and a gift for clustering notes that bloom with understated beauty. The saxophonist has a radio-ready cover in Horace Silver’s “Lonely Woman” that pares the band to a dazzling trio with bassist Joe Martin and the drummer Marcus Gilmore. Saslow doesn’t play loud, never showboats by reaching for the high notes or confuses proficiency with theatrics, which in the end defines his playing as grounded and self-assured. Saslow’s also a persuasive balladeer, closing the album with “Until Next Time,” a heartfelt track that begins with Trane-like licks over a gentle groove and carries you out under a blanket of swing courtesy of Martin’s walking bass, Gilmore’s sleek beats and Moreno’s gorgeous licks. (7 tracks; 52:07 minutes)

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