The Solo Recordings of Ari Hoenig
Only 1 minute and 10 seconds long, Hoenig's improvisation "Skins" ( Time Travels ) is a meteoric burst of percussive energy that can simply be enjoyed as such; or, listened to repeatedly in order to take in its elusive development and organization. The solo hurtles along at a wicked pace, but there's no steady pulse per se; at times Hoenig gives the impression of changing speeds. Exhibiting independence of all four limbs as well as a capacity to make each stroke meaningful, he layers rhythm on top of rhythm, yet nothing sounds superfluous; furthermore, despite the compacted nature of the piece Hoenig plays as if nearly everything he touches opens up a world of possibilities to be explored posthaste. There's a sense of the solo traversing a long distance and encompassing various terrain in one manic sprint. He's constantly on the go, simultaneously repeating variations of established patterns (like edgy rhythms played in near-unison on the bass drum and on the hi-hat) while introducing new ones, and making quick shifts that never sound too abrupt or disjointed.
During the first of his three improvised choruses on Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" ( Time Travels ) there's a balance between the pure excitement that one expects from a drum solo and pleasures more cerebral in nature. Hoenig often draws from his canny interpretation of the tune's melody. Rarely more than a few bars pass without the drums at least alluding to something he's played on the head, and as Hoenig forges ahead these snippets are seamlessly integrated into the whole. As he briskly goes from one idea to the next, nothing ever sounds rushed, poorly thought out, or overbearing. Hoenig doesn't use the cymbals all that much, preferring to state his case mostly on the snare with an array of single strokes, buzzes, and stick shots. The tom-tom strokes are allowed to ring outsounding as if they're about to burst into song. The bass drum is not a constant presence, but rather used as infrequent punctuation, underlining or adding depth to a phrase. The hi-hat that snaps on beats 2 and 4 throughout the head isn't a factor after the improvisation's first few bars. His sticking is what really matters here, and Hoenig's timing is such that a steady pulse is always present without being explicitly stated.
Visit Ari Hoenig on the web at www.arihoenig.com .
Bohemian Revolution: Ari Hoenig at Twins Jazz