Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman (b. 1983) has been plying his trade in New York since 2004. You may have heard him in the company of Chris Potter, Mark Turner or Ari Hoenig and others, and Far Star is his tenth outing as leader.
It’s very different to anything else in his discography, and to understand the shift in style we must first understand how the album was made. Deprived of opportunities to work with a band during the pandemic, Hekselman learned the ropes of digital sound engineering. Armed with just his guitars and some sound files on his computer he began to layer-up new pieces, and many hours of work later Far Star is what emerged.
While Hekselman deploys a discernibly broader palette, long-time admirers shouldn’t feel too threatened – his fascination with melody, mood and colour remains very much intact. Long Way From Home opens in curiously low-tech style, its whistled theme feeling like a ghostly snippet from a lost Sergio Leone soundtrack. Harland’s disarmingly simple pulse signals a sudden change, and Hekselman’s majestic solo then leads us into a wide-open Metheny-esque landscape.
The abstract beats of Fast Moving Century are altogether more unexpected. For a brief moment I wondered if Hekselman was duetting with electro iconoclasts Autechre, but the piece eventually morphs into a fast fusion groove. Less successful are the kitsch Metheny Group inspired keyboards of the title-track – a little saccharine for my taste – but there’s no doubting it’s a beautiful piece. Magic Chord, by contrast, is a thrilling power play, while Ziv Ravitz’s complex chattering rhythms are prominently featured on the elegiac Rebirth, which brings the collection to a suitably gripping close.
Innovative by necessity and an impressive triumph of the will, Far Star may yet be the one to move Hekselman fully out of Metheny’s long shadow.
Long Way From Home; Fast Moving Century; I Didn’t Know; Far Star; Magic Chord; Cycles; The Headrocker; Rebirth (47.00)
Hekselman (elg, b, kyb, v, pc) with Eric Harland (d) on 1, 2, 3, 5, 6; Shai Maestro (p) on 2; Nathan Schram (vn, vla) on 4; Oren Hardy (b) on 4; Alon Benjamini (d) on 4; Nomok (kyb) on 7; Amir Bresler (d) on 7; Ziv Ravitz (d) on 8. Tel Aviv and New York City, March 2020 to June 2021.
Edition Records EDN1201