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Ari Hoenig and Punk Bop Regattabar Boston, Massachusetts April 8, 2008 On Tuesday, April 8, drummer Ari Hoenig and his Punk Pop trio featuring Gilad Hekselman on guitar and Orlando LeFleming on bass played at Boston's Regattabar. Although he can be heard as a sideman on numerous recordings and performances with artists such as Kenny Werner, Jean-Michel Pilc, Chris Potter and Kurt Rosenwinkel, Hoenig has made a unique niche for himself as a melodic drummer and composer capable of reproducing complex bebop melodies on the drums note for note. Since the release of his self-produced solo drum albums Time Travels (1K, 2003) and The Life Of A Day (Ah Ha, 2003), musicians are beginning to realize the possibilities of creating actual pitches on a standard 4-piece drum kit.
This shift of the drums into the front line was exemplified Tuesday night when the trio performed Bobby Timmons' classic hard bop piece "Moanin." The crowd became particularly engaged during the out head, when Hoenig took the melody up a half step by bending the drum heads. As if this wasn't enough, he then took it up another half step! Guitarist Gilad Hekselman and bassist Orlando LeFleming smiled and followed by serving the role of the accompanists. No doubt few in the room had previously witnessed such a reversal: guitar and bass accompanying the melody as stated on drums. The trio worked through a set of originals as well as Hoenig's arrangements of Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" and Coltrane's "Moment's Notice." Although Punk Bop incorporates hard hitting rock beats and phrasing into its selections, the group displayed an impressive range of dynamics and styles. One section might be whispered only to be followed by an aggressive shouting rant. Any given piece led the group through swing, rock, and latin as well as various odd meters. When I expressed my awe at the group's ability to move effortlessly between such dynamic extremes, Hekselman informed me that such flexibility is something that Hoenig insists on.
For Hoenig, sheer musicality is not limited to playing alone but extends through his compositional, supportive and leadership abilities as well. When you add up these elementsdrums as the front line instrument, a wide dynamic range, the incorporation of unique musical styles, odd meters, and the superimposition of new beats on top of one another to create entirely new metersyou are left with one of the most original sounds in jazz today.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.