The worldwide botherhood of the drums is hereby kicked in the pants! Ari Hoenig's work in the ensembles of Jean-Michel Pilc, Seamus Blake, Jonathan Kreisberg, Pat Martino, and Wayne Krantz has extended the art of jazz drumming into the future. He's done this via telepathic interaction with soloists, forging his own brand of swing and exerting an absolutely uncanny ability to mine melodicism from the kit. For most drummers, continuing on this road of excellence would be enough.
Now, unaccompanied on solo drums, the 30-year old Hoenig accomplishes the rare feat of issuing a recording that goes beyond extending to evolving an art form, in this case, melodic drumming. Many claim to practice this art, but in very few instances has it been executed in a manner so obviously, stunningly discernible to the listener, and in no instance has it been executed with so few drums. You won't find it on the liners, but here's the infomercial. Just Ari and a four part drum kit: bass, snare, two toms, two cymbals.
"Revele" and "Taps" open and close the record. Any ear can tell, even without a melody instrument - it's just amazing what his well-placed elbow, finger, saliva or stick can do - all tonality changes are achieved via changes in pressure on the heads. Familiar tunes and unfamiliar originals synergize to make the presentation whole. "Blues for Sino" runs through a blues form, slackened snare and toms acting as a vintage Silvertone slide guitar. Dynamics and headroom are Hoenig's valuable allies in this endeavor, as on "Nardis," where he begins mildly, imparting a Carribean rhythmic lilt. But he's able to simultaneously convey the melody, escalating to a higher volume before again backing off and using his hands on the kit, something he seems to always incorporate tastefully into his live gigs.
An absolute master of every alternative way of playing the kit, he can actually "play" brushes while merely rolling their handles over a drum head. His performance on "Brush Off" alone makes a powerful statement of state-of-the-art brushwork.
As much as they are technically brilliant, his treatment of the chestnuts "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine" stand out more for the injection of humorous air Ari pumps into them. "Summertime" sounds as if he's got a symphony's-worth of kettle drums in the studio, but it's the ways, the wheres and hows of his use of mallets that produces the sounds. His sardonic, irreverent, spoken-word treatment to the cornball lyrics of this workhorse underscores their importance to the way listeners have grown accustomed to interpreting the song. A similar treatment of "Valentine," with a bit more pitch to the melancholically satirical vocalese, serves to point out that with both the drum sounds and vocals, it's the melodic contour that counts, more than actual pitch values.
This is another independently released document that we'd never hear if we had to depend on the majors. A the very least, anyone who plays the drums should look at this recording as a benchmark. Young drummers, especially, should know that this stuff is even possible to play on a regular kit! Those interested in not only jazz drumming, but what is often referred to as the "Art of the Drum," will likely be mesmerized by this offering. It should go a long way toward igniting Hoenig's fame flame, especially when the worldwide community of percussion-obsessed media gets wind of it.
Compositions and improvisations are available now only by mail-order from arihoenig.com - no overdubs included!