PERSONNEL: Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Rick Rosato (bass), Jonathan Pinson (drums)
SET LIST 1: It Will Get Better (Hekselman), Tokyo Cookie (Hekselman), Stumble (Hekselman), Cheryl (Parker), Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So (Hekselman)
SET LIST 2: Verona (Hekselman), Clap Clap (Hekselman), My Ideal (Whiting/Robin/Chase), Home To You (Hekselman)
HIGHLIGHTS: The night closed with “Home To You” where Hekselman, Turner, and Pinson exchanged ideas with a sense of joy and freedom.
Gilad Hekselman’s trio with bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Jonathan Pinson has maintained a busy touring schedule for the last two years. In November, they were joined by Hekselman’s long-time collaborator Mark Turner for a tour in Europe. This night at Smalls, the four reunited for their first performance together since returning home.
The night opened with Hekselman’s “It Will Get Better.” Like many of his compositions, it had a long arrangement buoyed by strong melodies and ample solo space. Hekselman’s searching improvisation blended loose, singing melodies with precisely executed polyrhythms. Turner followed with a patiently developed solo that was punctuated by explosive Brian Bladesque hits from Pinson. The drummer also draws on Marcus Gilmore and the straight-eighth, Dilla-esque language that characterizes much of contemporary New York drumming. Later in the set, Pinson stretched out on “Cheryl” with a dynamic, hard-hitting solo.
“Verona” opened the second set and featured a beautifully melodic solos from Rosato who has a rich, percussive attack in the tradition of Larry Grenadier and Joe Martin. Later in the set, the quartet gave a beautifully concise reading of “My Ideal.” Turner’s dry, unaffected interpretation of the melody was profound in its simplicity. The solo that followed voiced the harmony with a creative precision that was equally moving.
The first set closed with “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So”, a captivating melody with a simple arrangement that felt almost like a country ballad. I often hear elements of this type of Americana in Hekselman’s writing and playing, especially in his own groups. While it is common for Hekselman to be associated with guitarists like Kurt Rosenwinkel, this aspect of his playing comes from somewhere else. He explained that part of it is his love of songs and popular music, but another important source is Bill Frisell.
Bill Frisell is one of my very favorite guitar players. He really makes the guitar sound like a guitar and I really dig that in him. Most of my influences are pianists, saxophonists, and vocalists, but with Bill I feel like he has taught me to come back to the guitar. When I want to play in a way that is more guitaristic, I often think of him.
While Hekselman’s music draws from many places, he is able to channel everything into a cohesive voice that is his own. The quartet illustrated a similarly unified vision.
— by Jeff McGregor