Courtesy of Gilad Hekselman
Soft, clean guitar tones and smooth saxophone rhythms are slated to fill the air at the Wexner Center for the Arts this weekend, as a young Israeli jazz guitarist makes his debut performance in Columbus.
Gilad Hekselman is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Wexner Center’s Performance Space.
Chuck Helm, director of performing arts at the Wexner Center, discovered Hekselman in early January at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), an annual conference which showcases a collection of different theater, dance, music and art performances, in New York City.
During the conference, the Winter Jazz Fest, a two-night event where six venues in Greenwich Village, N.Y., each house up to seven bands a night, was held.
“You hop between clubs all night listening to different bands,” Helm said.
Having read about Hekselman before, Helm decided to go and watch his performance at the Zinc Bar.
Hekselman, accompanied by Mark Turner, a jazz saxophonist, attracted a very young and large audience of 100 plus people, Helm said.
“The Winter Jazz Fest is a good place for upcoming artist to be heard,” said Helm. “I saw them, loved it and afterwards went up and introduced myself and said ‘lets set up a gig.'”
According to his personal website, Hekselman was born in Israel in 1983, and he began playing guitar at age 9. He attended the Thelma Yellin School of Arts in Giv’atayim, Isrrael, graduating from the jazz department at 18.
In 2005, he won the Gibson Montreux International Guitar Competition in Switzerland, and the following year, he opened for guitar legend Paco de Lucia at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
According to the website, in 2009 he recorded three tracks for Walt Disney records, and in 2010, he recorded his third album “Hearts Wide Open.”
Hekselman has fresh music ideas, and his guitar accompanied by Turners’ saxophone is fantastic, Helm said.
Some students agree.
“I like the rhythm, I like the free rhythm, it’s a lot different than what you normally would hear,” said Kayleigh Chevrier, a second-year in music.
Chevrier is a jazz fan who has attended many concerts.
After listening to Hekselman for the first time, she enjoyed his music and said he sounded like an artist she would listen to and consider going to see his performance.
Jennifer Wray, the Wexner Center’s marketing and media assistant, said Hekselman’s style and form make him an artist you wouldn’t normally find in Columbus.
“He is a young guy, but is well-respected in the jazz world, particularly in the jazz guitar world, for his clean tone and contemporary take on this music form. We try to look for people who have those qualities that make them contemporary, exciting and interesting and a type of musician that you wouldn’t necessarily hear in Columbus,” Wray said.
Hekselman plays complex music, but it is not bombastic, Wray said.
“It’s not going to hit you over the head with its complexity,” she said. “It’s the type of music that draws its listeners in.”
He will be performing with three other artists: Turner, Marcus Gilmore on drums and Joe Martin on the bass.
The venue will have an intimate setting with a cabaret-style show accompanied with great sound that will make for a suitable setup, Wray said.
The audience will get to see Hekselman up close, with long tables set up at the foot of the stage, making it more personal.
“This is contemporary music. This is music that is unlike anything else you’re going to hear in Columbus had we not brought it into town,” Wray said. “I think it’s rhythmically challenging and it’s a good way to experience the thriving jazz scene that is happening in New York but from the comfort of being here in Columbus, Ohio.”
Tickets cost $13 for students, $16 for members and $18 for the general public, and are available on the Wexner Center website, or at the box office at 1871 N. High Street. Drinks will be available for sale.