Gilad Hekselman, Far Star, Edition ****

The whistling on 'Long Way From Home' didn't mean instant appeal. But it grew on me because the tune is strong. However off-putting that pre-release track was some weeks ago, I knew that I had to return to hear all of Far Star rather than run for …

Published: 15 May 2022. Updated: 51 days.

The whistling on 'Long Way From Home' didn't mean instant appeal. But it grew on me because the tune is strong. However off-putting that pre-release track was some weeks ago, I knew that I had to return to hear all of Far Star rather than run for the hills to never hear these new sounds again because I admire the Israeli Gilad Hekselman (although, tsk, haven't caught him live so far) last heard on this blog on record among the cast of players on Ivo Neame's very fine Glimpses of Truth.

This guitarist has a massive reputation among quite a number of progressively-inclined musicians. He has made records under his own name over the past 15 years or so and increasingly collected fans on both sides of the Atlantic. 'Fast Moving Century' is a driving-in-the-car type turn-up-the-radio-now kind of tune equipped with a displaced beat feel that magnifies the syncopated fracturings that the track thrives on.

'I Didn't Know' has an Americana-flecked complexion, the acoustic side coming through and that aspect and its Metheny-isms in the writing (note, writing, rather than the distinct individualism of the playing) are the most important factors to triage on this fine record. The title track is a quiet ballad and Hekselman writes great tunes and as you'd expect from a virtuoso guitarist has an incredible harmonic grasp. Notable too that 'Magic Chord' is muscular with its big blocks of chords enough to add needed welly.

Personnel on what is a human-scaled rather than over-produced record recorded in Tel Aviv and for other contributions edited in remotely from tracks laid down in the States and France include pianist Shai Maestro, main drummer the great Eric Harland and fellow tub thumper Ziv Ravitz just on one track.

'Cycles' is yearning, the pastoral side of Hekselman's very considerable technique gains traction to translate into pristine melody aided by a chorus of electronics. There is a rootsy, desultory, air to 'The Headrocker' that drew me in. And the Americana Frisellian flavour on 'Rebirth,' the track with Ravitz, is a treat. The naive, in the natural, child-like, sense of wonder the word invokes, that Far Star conjures so well, is a significant factor in Gilad's artistry. Stephen Graham

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Extended, Without Notice ***

Extended are an adventurous piano trio who have been around for a while, debuting five years ago. They are pianist Oscar Rossignoli hailing from Honduras, bassist Matt Booth from near Washington DC and drummer Brad Webb from South Louisiana …

Published: 14 May 2022. Updated: 51 days.

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Extended are an adventurous piano trio who have been around for a while, debuting five years ago. They are pianist Oscar Rossignoli hailing from Honduras, bassist Matt Booth from near Washington DC and drummer Brad Webb from South Louisiana (obviously not the Jamie Cullum drummer of the same name as he's a Brit and usually extravagantly coiffed).

They grabbed me here playing their own tunes on a studio affair recorded in New Orleans. 'Impairment Process' begins with Webb brittle and jumpy and then things move on founded by an anchoring pedal note from Rossignoli who becomes quite rococo in his darting forays (I'm thinking ELEW even in this. Oh, I miss ELEW, but haven't heard a record of his in ages).

'Sphere' doesn't sound all that Monkish (if there is an intention to pun off a variant on Monk's middle name that is, if there isn't let that chin-strokery go). More to the point the piece can grab the listener by the lapels. The tension in 'Sphere' ratchets up. And it seems that the band can go a little gung-ho at times but I rode with it and 'The Ineffable Allure of Shadows' has a straightforward pastoral melody and sounds even quite European, meaning the sort of tune numerous exceptionally quiet piano trios from Germany and Switzerland habitually trot out. Booth comes through here and takes a fine, oh, Gary Peacock-like solo and his foundational note at the beginning which sounds, shoot me if I'm wrong, as if it is layered under a piano note on 'Central Standard' and is one of the highlights of this very well-engineered album as is this track which has an anthemic swagger to it.

So, in all, I'm thinking the previously referred-to artist formerly known as Eric Lewis a little and interesting tunes that lead to intelligent outcomes. We are all for an unlikely adjective, that can also just as easily function as a past participle and a past tense of a verb, as a band name. But note in terms of imagination it's all about the present and being so in the detail of flow achieved by the achievements of advanced group interplay. SG

Released on 20 May and obtainable via this link

Extended, l-r: Oscar Rossignoli, Matt Booth, Brad Webb, above. Photo: press

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