Essential listening – Ari Hoenig Quartet

Last year, TimeOut New York published an article entitled “The 25 essential New York City jazz icons”. The list included 25 musicians, ranging in age from 30 to 86, whose “creative vitality… live presence, influence, conceptual ambition, stylistic range, and other intangibles” contributed to a “compelling case for why New York jazz is in the midst of a new golden age.”

Out of those 25 musicians, there were only three spots taken by drummers: Paul Motian, Roy Haynes, and… Ari Hoenig!

Ari Hoenig

Ari is certainly in fine company; we’re talking about two of the greatest drummers in jazz history here. Paul Motian (number one on the list!) was 70 when he passed away shortly after the article came out, and a legend in jazz drumming with nearly 40 albums as a bandleader; Roy Haynes (at number five) started making a name for himself with Lester Young, and Charlie Parker in the late 1940’s, and is still going strong with his band Fountain Of Youth at 86 years of age!

So what about this “young legend”, Ari Hoenig? TimeOut said Ari “works in what could be termed the mainstream jazz idiom, performing a conventional blend of nimble up-tempo standards and ballads; inventive originals, some with a punky or fusiony bent, season the mix. What’s really special about Hoenig, though, is his improvisational flair: the drummer’s daringly off-kilter punctuations, subtly elastic tempos and melodic tom-tom workouts make his gigs anything but routine. If you want to hear what famed critic Whitney Balliett meant when he called jazz ‘the sound of surprise’, head to Smalls (club in New York City) on a Monday, and get there early to secure a good view of the drummer.”

Ari has been an Enlightened Planet favorite for a long time now. March 2012 will mark his third visit to Thailand in the past four years, and for this tour we’ve added shows at the Cotton Club in Japan and at the Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore as well. He’ll be leading a stellar band: Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Orlando le Fleming on bass, and Shai Maestro on piano.

Ari Hoenig Quartet

Gilad Hekselman is a phenomenal young guitarist. In 2011 he contributed some wonderful work to Ari’s CD “Lines of Oppression”. Gilad also released his third CD as a bandleader, the incredible “Hearts Wide Open”, which was selected among the “Best of 2011” by The New York Times, and jumped up the charts at iTunes and Amazon. In an interview in September last year Pat Metheny named Gilad as one of the “great young players out there”. And recently, Guitar Aficionado magazine included Gilad in their article “Five Contemporary Jazz Guitarists Worth Exploring”. I expect great things from Gilad in the future!

Orlando le Fleming is “a major talent with the keenest of ears, deeply expressive technique, and a penchant for challenge”, according to All About Jazz. Orlando is another veteran bandmate of Ari’s, providing most of the bass work for “Lines of Oppression”, and is a key member of other top flight groups with Jonathan Kreisberg, Will Vinson, Lage Lund, and David Sanchez. He is also developing into a fine bandleader in his own right, with his 2010 CD debut “From Brooklyn With Love”.

Shai Maestro is the newcomer to this team, and is building an impressive resume himself. Only 25 years of age, Shai was a featured member of Avishai Cohen’s band since 2007, with the latest recorded effort being 2011’s “Seven Seas”. Recently, he left to pursue bigger plans for his own Shai Maestro Trio, and their first CD will be released in April 2012.

The Ari Hoenig Quartet starts their Asian tour with three nights at the Cotton Club in Tokyo, Japan, March 10, 11, and 12, before jetting to Bangkok, Thailand for workshops at Silpakorn University on March 14, and performance at Mello Yello on March 15. They wrap up with a performance at the Mosaic Music Festival at the Esplanade Recital Studio in Singapore on March 17, and a workshop with the Bright Young Things jazz mentorship program on March 18. Please use the links provided for more information on tickets and times!

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