Monday, September 1, 2014


After many missed opportunities, I finally had the esteemed pleasure of checking out a quintet led by probably one of the most intense, exciting and colourful drummers to ever grace the contemporary jazz scene, Ari Hoenig.

Listening to Ari Hoenig is something you got to experience.   The raw emotions, energy, rhythms and drive that comes out of him and his band members is nothing short of remarkable and invigorating at the same time.    It was like being in New York City for a magical night, with all of the excitement, adventure, and risk taking produced by such high caliber musicians.

Ari Hoenig’s percussive style is an extension of Elvin jones, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams and Brian Blade, with some humorous touches of the “Animal” character from the Muppets and the hard rock edge of a Lars Ulrich from Metallica.    In the first set that I caught, he displays such techniques effectively through his own compositions, showing his strengths and creativity as a solid writer of contemporary, forward thinking jazz.

The first piece, called Lyric, showed strong lyrical melodies, raw emotion, and gut wrenching passion from all of the band members involved.    There is even a soaring guitar solo passage by guitarist Gilad Hekselman which egged Ari on to play intense polyrhythms behind the solo, driving the music into stratospheric regions unknown to mankind and to the delight of the audience.

My favourite piece would have to be the straight ahead free bop of “I’ll Think About It”, with soaring solos by saxophonist Tivon Pennicott (he even breaks into Avant garde screams on the saxophone during the passage), and a killer drum solo by Ari himself.

Things cool off with an untitled ballad that showed off the relaxed side of Ari and his band, while allowing some time to breathe after all of the action displayed in the first two songs.

My second favourite piece that closed the first set was simply called “The Other”, which featured a driving, klezmer/Middle Eastern influenced solo by Israeli pianist Shai Maestro and effective shifts from acoustic to electric bass by bassist Orlando LeFleming.

This is by far hands down one of the best jazz concerts that I have been to in 2014, and I am glad that I was able to make it out to see Ari Hoenig in action and finally connect with him as a fellow jazz confrere.    It is through artists such as Ari and his band members that jazz has a very solid and secure future, evident by the scores of young people that were there to witness such an amazing tour-de-force.  


(with Ari Hoenig and Shai Maestro)

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