GILAD HEKSELMAN breathes melody. The Israeli-born guitarist has quickly captured attention as one of the greatest young voices in modern jazz, with the support of his Hex Trio, which includes Marcus Gilmore on drums and Joe Martin on bass.
Hekselman grew up with a love of pop music and Michael Jackson, and didn't see a path toward jazz when he was first accepted to the Thelma Yellin School of the Arts near Tel Aviv. The school emphasizes musical basics such as harmony, ear training, and tradition, but community and artistic connections were also embraced, which led Hekselman to a fortuitous meeting with clarinetist Anat Cohen.
Watching Cohen and her siblings, Avishai and Yuval, play together, Hekselman says, "was one of those first moments I saw musicians that connected to one another on such a high level. It was like telepathy."
Hekselman soon moved to New York City on a cultural scholarship with the New School, and Cohen began calling him to gigs, which Hekselman looks back on with humility. He met Martin shortly after, and then Gilmore.
"The chemistry was very special from the get-go," Hekselman says of the trio. "For me there's nothing more we want from bandmates than to be free. I think they know that so they bring a lot of what they have to say to the game."
This fall he released his fourth album, Homes, a touching exploration of his various "ports of call." Embodying his spacious sound—a fine balance between his attention to melody and his unique strumming method—Hekselman plays with noise in unique ways, enveloping psychedelic elements with changes to the musical themes. In the context of the Hex Trio, this is taken deeper as each player enters with a counterpoint of his own to create a masterful web.
Hekselman remains modest about his achievements and optimistic about the future, which includes a lyric-based album and more world travels. "Life kind of prepares you for itself in a way. Hopefully all of those tools you've acquired through practicing, they just allow you to be free and just be yourself."
Thursday's performance marks the first time the guitarist is coming to the City of Roses, though he is not unfamiliar as a contributor to Portlander Esperanza Spalding's Grammy-winning record Radio Music Society. Although the Hex Trio performs on Hekselman's latest album, Homes, this week's show at Jimmy Mak's will instead feature longtime contributor Dave Robaire on bass and Jonathan Pinson on drums.