The rising stars of jazz guitar.
Guitar Night with Gilad Hekselman and Camila Meza
The rising stars of jazz guitar.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear two of the most talked-about young jazz musicians in one concert. Camila Meza possesses an innate and rare combination of qualities as a singer and guitar player who also writes her own songs and arrangements. She has a highly expressive voice with a unique timbre and way of phrasing, while her improvisations and accompaniment on the guitar are equally touching and soulful. Her Chilean roots and profound connection to jazz give her music a very special and appealing sound. Gilad Hekselman arrived in New York from Israel in 2004, and proceeded to tear the place up, guitaristically speaking. In short order, he was performing with many of the top artists in jazz, among them Chris Potter, Mark Turner, John Scofield, Esperanza Spalding, and many others. Backed by a rhythm section of heavyweights that includes drummer Billy Hart, pianist Ethan Iverson, and bassist Linda Oh, Meza and Hekselman will undoubtedly deliver the kind of performance you can only hear at SJW.
Camila Meza, guitar and vocals
Gilad Hekselman, guitar
Ethan Iverson, piano
Linda Oh, bass
Billy Hart, drums
As America’s most profound indigenous art form, jazz has long benefitted from the regular arrival of immigrant talent. But what was once a steady flow, mostly emanating from the Caribbean, has turned into a global torrent in recent decades, with particularly consequent communities hailing from Israel and South America. Guitar Night features two highly-acclaimed young musicians who represent the creative frisson generated by this far-flung jazz ingathering: Israeli-born Gilad Hekselman and Chilean guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza.
Over the past decade Hekselman has gained widespread acclaim as a supremely poised improviser, savvy bandleader, and capaciously lyrical composer. He’s released five albums under his own name, including his most recent three with his superlative working quartet featuring tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Marcus Gilmore. When he’s not playing with his own band, Hekselman can be found touring and performing with bandleaders such as drummer Ari Hoenig, bassist Ben Williams, saxophonist Dayna Stephens, pianist Julian Shore, and a recent trio led by flugelhornist John Raymond with drummer Collin Stranahan (featured on the new CD Real Feels).
Born in Israel in 1983, Hekselman started playing guitar at nine. By 12 he was the youngest musician selected for a studio band featured on a weekly children’s television show, a stint that lasted two seasons. Like many of his Israeli peers who have gained recognition in New York, he graduated from the prestigious Thelma Yellin School of Arts, and by the time he made the move to New York City in 2004 to study at the New School “it was right after the wave, with Anat and Avishai Cohen, the bassist Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital, Amos Hoffman. Eli Degibri, and trombonist Ari Liebovich,” Hekselman says. “It still wasn’t to the scale it is today, but it was starting. They embraced me pretty fast. Anat picked me up as soon as I got into town and said, you’re going to play with me. I have this tune ‘New York Angels’ on my second album, and she’s one of them.”
For tonight’s concert Hekselman and Meza will be interacting with the prodigious rhythm section featuring drum legend Billy Hart, The Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, and Malaysian-born, Australian bassist Linda Oh, who’s been touring for the past several years with trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Joe Lovano.
“I have some history with all of them,” Hekselman says. “When I went to New School, I took some lessons with Billy Hart, and I’ve been trying to get together since then. He’s a hero of mine, he’s always been very supportive. Linda and I played as sidemen on the same gig, and have been on some recordings together. I’ve got the least history with Ethan. My hobby is photography and our paths crossed when I took my camera to Village Vanguard when he was there with Ben Street and Tootie Heath. I like portraits, and I like to capture people, but I don’t limit myself. The past year or two I’ve been doing it less, but it’s still part of how I see the world.”
Fellow Brooklynites, Hekselman and Meza have played together several times in informal settings, but tonight’s showcase is their first real concert collaboration (it’s also both players debut as Bay Area headliners, though Hekselman’s trio opened for the Three Cohens at the JCCSF in a 2012 concert presented by SFJAZZ). Meza has worked extensively with Oh, both hiring her for gigs and as members of pianist Fabian Almazan’s band. “I know Ethan and Billy as a fan, but I’ve never had a chance to play with them,” she says. “I’m a fan of everyone there. It’s a real thrill.”
Meza’s only previous appearance in the Bay Area was on a tour last winter as a vocalist with trombonist Ryan Keberle’s Catharsis, a band celebrating the release of a brilliant new CD with a decidedly pan-American sensibility, Azul Infinito (Greenleaf Music). Guitar Night is her first Bay Area opportunity to explore both sides of her musical expression.
Singing was always a big part of her life growing up in Santiago, but Meza’s training focused on the guitar. She started listening to jazz via guitarists like George Benson and Pat Metheny, which led her to Wes Montgomery. By the time she made the move to New York City in 2009 to study at the New School, she was an accomplished guitarist and vocalist with two albums to her credit, and she quickly worked her way onto the scene. Increasingly focused on composing and arranging, she released her most personal album in February, Traces (Sunnyside), a session featuring her finely crafted original songs featuring Israeli keyboardist Shai Maestro, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Kendrick Scott. With her Latin American roots, and rarified skills at accompanying herself on guitar, Meza is creating music unlike anyone else on the scene
“I remember listening to Ella and Joe Pass and thinking I want to be able to do that,” she says. “That’s a lot to ask for, but it’s so much fun trying. You end up with a sound that’s mostly your own because your melding vocals and guitar. Plus, I’m this girl from Chile who has other references as well. You’re free to take it wherever you go, which is a little bit liberating. You look up so much to great players, and having your own niche frees you to experiment.”
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