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An Interview With Gilad Hekselman

Gilad Hekselman has been developing a reputation as one of the most promising guitarists in New York since his arrival in 2004.  In only a few years this native Israeli has shared the stage with some of the greatest artists in the New York jazz scene including, Chris Potter, Mark Turner, John Scofield, Anat Cohen, Ari Hoenig, Esperanza Spalding, Sam Yahel, Jeff Ballard, Gretchen Parlato, Avishai Cohen, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Tigran Hamasyan, Aaron Parks, and Greg Hutchinson.   He has played all of the major jazz clubs in New York City including the Blue Note, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s club, and Smalls.  He is constantly touring world-wide and has played most major jazz festivals including Montreux, North Sea, Montreal and San Francisco.

Gilad recently took some time to answer some questions for us here at LJS:

 LJS: Who were some of your greatest influences early on in your career?

GH: Michael Jackson, Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin, Bill Evan, Ahmad Jamal, Matti Caspi, Amos Hoffman, Brad Mehldau, Zakir Hussain

LJS: Which musicians inspire you today?

GH: Same ones as before plus Keith Jarrett, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Claire & The Reasons, Ray Charles, Chopin, Ali Farka Toure, Marcus Gilmore, Mark Turner and many of my contemporaries.

LJS: Talk about some pivotal moments in your career.

GH: When I realized that I want my music to have the same effect as what my favorite music has on me – make people feel something.

LJS: Any favorite jazz clubs you like to play at?

GH: I have many. Smalls would have to be on on there. Still waiting patiently to play at the Village Vanguard.

LJS: What is the state of jazz music today and where do you see it going?

GH: That’s a broad question. I try not to deal so much with genres. I just try to make the most beautiful music I can with the tools that I have.

LJS: What advice would you give to the next generation of upcoming jazz musicians? 

GH: Heart, ears and feet over brain. If it doesn’t make you feel something – what’s the point? That’s what I keep telling/asking myself as well…

LJS: Any new projects coming up? Records, tours…ect?

GH: I’m still touring quite a bit. Just made a new recording with my band featuring Joe Martin on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums and Jeff Ballard is sitting in too. Pretty excited about that one!

LJS: What got you into jazz and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

GH: I didn’t decide, but it was a natural route from playing rock to prog-rock to fusion to jazz as a kid. Now I just try to play what I hear and feel and it seems like it falls under the ‘jazz’ category.

LJS: Describe your musical education.

GH: I started piano at 9.  Went to an arts high school in Tel Aviv called Thelma Yellin, then to New school in NYC. Constantly learning still from my colleagues and sometimes through private lessons.

LJS: In your opinion, what are the most enjoyable aspects and challenging aspects of being a musician?

GH: The challenging: traveling (as in checking in, sitting for hours, losing baggage, schlepping…)

The enjoyable: traveling (as in meeting new people, seeing places, playing music for people…)

LJS: Any favorite cities you like to visit while on the road?

GH: Paris would be one of my top ones. But many, many other beautiful and memorable places. The list is huge.

LJS: Talk about your approach to composing.

GH: It’s different every time.  Always with patience and listening to what the song needs.

(LJS 2014)


Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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