Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Some observations on an Ari Hoenig performance

A few weeks back I saw Ari Hoenig play in Portland with Kenny Werner's trio, and scribbled down a few notes after the fact. Hoenig is one of the leading current guys, but I haven't been exposed to a lot of his playing; mainly the technically mind-blowing highlights, which to me are the most meaningless part of anyone's playing. So I went in feeling that I didn't know his playing, but expecting to be shocked and awed. I was happy to see he's playing the same game as the rest of us, more or less; the gig could've been played nearly as well by a number of drummers I know— non-famous ones.

For whatever they're worth, and in the spirit of my previous concert reports, here are a few thoughts on what I saw and heard at the performance. Some of this may look like criticism, but it isn't— I'm just reporting some neutral observations, and my own feelings, which really have nothing to do with Hoenig:

He plays the ride cymbal with a flatter wrist than most— more of a German grip, so-called.

It was good to see someone good drop sticks in pretty random places, like I do.

He's a very tasteful, deliberate player with a funny stage presence.

He's a very wrist-y player. Downstroke-y. Apparently very little finger, and very little arm. Very refined technique, very precise, very practiced.

He moves the sticks at an uneven, rather slow velocity, as if he's refining his timing mid-stroke.

Certain people do things that defy analysis; you don't know where the things they play came from, and you don't know how you would duplicate them— Steve Pancerev, my brother, John Bishop, Jim Black, etc. With Hoenig you feel you understand what he's doing, and that it largely would make logical sense on analysis; he seems to be very intellectually engaged.

Just as a matter of my own taste, I like a little more of a chaotic/organic edge, like I see from players like Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Jack Dejohnette, Billy Higgins or Paul Motian. I think I need that quality to be present to get really excited about a player.

Hoenig definitely has a 21st century drummer's touch— very well-adapted to playing softly, very fine control at the lower end of the dynamic spectrum.

He will do a thing which many good, well-known players do, but which I feel is not good practice— matching the soloist's rhythm exactly.

Is it a New York thing to cultivate an uncomfortable-looking stage presence? I feel like I see this a lot. Angular, shoulders slightly hunched, and a funny glower that reminds me a little bit of Animal, the muppet drummer. But it's good to be memorable. Remember the Terry Southern rule.

An issue I have with many jazz drummers is that they operate on such fine gradations of pulse, with so much action in the subdivisions, that the broader groove loses some depth. That seemed to be a little bit in effect here. I don't believe it's just a necessary result of jazz's faster tempos, because I've heard Dannie Richmond (later in his career especially), and Brian Blade, and Idris Muhammad, for example, maintain a broad feel while playing those tempos. Al Foster, too. Steve Gadd.

Here's the group playing in New York in 2010:


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thank you.

Jun said...

Enjoy the music!Thank you for palying.