With its complex melodies and rhythms, the Ari Hoenig Quartet had Aref Omar humming along in Singapore
ONE of the highlights of the Mosaic Music Festival 2012 in Singapore was the sizzling performance by the Ari Hoenig Quartet.In the intimate confines of the Recital Studio in the Esplanade, the audience was wowed by the dexterity and rhythmic precision of drummer and band leader Ari Hoenig.
Playing reworked and extended versions of tracks from his 2011 release Lines Of Oppression, he was accompanied by pianist Shai Maestro, guitarist Gilad Hekselman and bassist Orlando le Fleming.
All virtuosos in their own right, their pairing yielded an effective musical mix from the get-go. From the 30-minute opener Lines Of Oppression to Arrows & Loops, the four delivered a tight mix of layered rhythms, excitingly tricky melodic lines and quick drumming and melodic pattern exchanges. It was a stimulating musical journey with a good mix of jazz and bebop, with a punk twist and rock attitude.
At times, Hoenig’s incessant pounding on the drums looked radically erratic, but the sound equivalent was amazing and served to pace the melodies with artful verve and graceful power. Though shocking at first listen, it was not long before many in the audience started bopping their heads, tapping their feet or simply swinging gently to the stirring music.
Heonig kept things interesting throughout as he hammered out with keen precision, surgical variations of the beats, utilising drum sticks, brushes and mallets. All this beautiful racket from his simple four-piece cocktail drum kit, augmented only by two ride cymbals and a hi-hat stand.
Things slowed down with Wedding Song, a poignant ballad that had Hoenig complementing the saccharine ode with his voice.
Then there was the drummer’s rendition of Bobby Timmons’ Moanin. Starting off as a solo performance, he cleverly teased out the piano and horn riffs of the famous jazz classic from his drums.
Stroking his elbow hard across the snare after a hit, he bent the tones and created the melodies. Combining this technique with subtle tonal differences from the toms, Hoenig played out other impressive passages before the rest of the band joined in. Instead of turning into a musical mess, each instrument was allowed to shine. Even during segments where all played together, it was tight, accessible and harmonious.
It was also a joy to watch the musicians. Hoenig had a variety of expressions, from manic glee to an intense look as he hulked over the drum kit. Maestro shifted quite a bit while twinkling the ivories, getting up sporadically to tweak, mute, hit and strum some notes from inside the body of his baby grand.
Hekselman’s “spidery” fingers, which artfully negotiated the guitar fretboard with ease, were a picture of inspiration, while le Fleming swayed as he kept the bottom end groovy and solid.
All were clearly having a blast, with glimpses of smiles as they looked at each other for cues to navigate the musical field.
It was an almost bipolar experience as the quartet went through various dynamics, from slow grooves to fast runs and back, during the 80-minute concert. Emotionally satisfying, it touched on both light-hearted and dark moods.
With an interestingly unpredictable set of songs, matched with equal doses of talent, a sense of humour and spontaneity, it was hard not to be swept along by the manic energy, moving melodies and rhythmic tapestry of the Ari Hoenig Quartet.