Blessed are those who have seen Rudolf Nureyev dance. Every muscle worked as the polished part of the perfect whole. His technical ability was unmatched but functioning solely as the groundwork of a flamboyant performance. Ari Hoenig is the Rudolf Nureyev of contemporary jazz drumming.
For his latest album, Conner’s Days, the drummer from New York City teamed up with pianist Nitai Hershkovits and bassist Or Bareket, who are equally adept at turning virtuosity into valid musical statements. Conner’s Days is piano-trio jazz 3.0. Shifting tempo, broken time, intricate polyrhythm, the intuitive melodic artistry of Max Roach and the energy of Robert Wyatt and Aynsley Dunbar are some of the ingredients of Hoenig’s recipe, enabling him to transform song into surprising experience, with the precision of a diamond cutter to boot. A repetitive krautrock beat divides sections of the uplifting Guernsey St Gooseneck. The integration of Anymore’s complexity and attractive folk song melody is a noteworthy crossover attempt. Figuration is a post-modern gypsy groove. Off-kilter metre, low, gloomy piano notes and delicate, bouncing snare rolls intensify Conner’s Days, a melody line that moves in a hypnotic spiral course.
Hoenig is a savvy and extraordinary interpreter of standards. Conner’s Days includes a number of masterful examples of his approach. Duke Ellington’s Prelude To A Kiss is a playground for Hoenig’s subtle and poised brush playing. It gels smoothly with the measured half-time playing by Herskovits, which adds a dreamy quality to Ellington’s lovely composition. Herskovits is flawless but doesn’t necessarily keep it tidy and neat. On account of his long-lined and quirky groove, Cole Porter’s All Of You is the song equivalent of the greasy sandwich, the calorie bomb with ketchup, shreds of cheddar cheese and the juice from Angus burger dripping down your chin.
The fragmented melodic parts of All The Things You Are leave a lot to the imagination. The classic vehicle for the giants of bebop, boosted by a slyly suggested backbeat, furthermore swings with crisp, relentless drive. All The Things You Are is a highlight of an altogether very impressive album.
It should only be a matter of time before Hoenig’s international reputation is on par with the stature of lauded, front-running contemporaries as Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson.
Conner’s Days; All The Things You Are; Anymore; Prelude To A Kiss; For Tracy; Figuration; Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered; All Of You; Guernsey St Gooseneck; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; Up; Conner’s Days Reprise (54.26)
Hoenig (d); Nitai Hershkovits (p); Or Bareket (b). New York City, 22 November 2017.
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 577