Ari Hoenig Punk Bop Trio Saturday, February 16 Dazzle
Better than: Most jazz shows I’ve seen in the last six months.
Ari Hoenig is intense. In his own right the drummer is a force to be reckoned with; so it's no small compliment to acknowledge that the other two parts of the trio that took the stage for one of three sold-out sets at Dazzle Saturday night -- guitarist Gilad Hekselman and local organist Pat Bianchi, both high-caliber players -- matched Hoenig’s power.
The trio opened the set with Hekselman’s arrangement of the jazz standard “Sweet and Lovely.” What began as lilting swing with Hoenig on the brushes got progressively faster and Hoenig switching to the sticks as Hekselman took off on an extended solo that got more intense as Hoenig pushed the tempo. After the guitarist’s solo, the trio slowed down and Hoenig went back to brushes as Bianchi began took his turn soloing. Hoenig again gradually sped up the song’s tempo until Bianchi was burning furiously.
Hoenig kicked off Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” by playing the melody on the drums, rubbing his elbows over the drumheads to change the pitch. After Bianchi and Hekselman joined in, the three of them started firing on all cylinders. Hekselman’s fingers were flying effortlessly across the fretboard of his Gibson Howard Roberts model guitar while Bianchi laid down chords and bass lines, left foot furiously pumping on the floor pedals. Hoening’s solo was a tour de force of Elvin Jones intensity. While his sticks traversed the kit, Hoenig’s facial gestures constantly changed. At times he would scowl, mouth curled up and twisted; other times, he closed his eyes and opened his mouth. A few times, the guy looked like he was possessed. But in a good way.
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After the three slowed things down a bit on Hoenig’s original “Seraphic,” which is also the title of his forthcoming album, Hoenig played the melody of “Moanin’,” the Bobby Timmons tune made famous by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Both Hekselman and Bianchi riffed with shear abandon during their solos while Hoenig propelled the two.
The trio closed out the set with a tune that started off with the three locked in a New Orleans funk groove with Hoenig occasionally switching gears into a faster James Brown groove. During the tune, the cats were amazingly tight, each hitting the intricate changes right on the money. Damn near everything about the set was right on the money. –- Jon Solomon
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I saw Hoenig the last time he played at Dazzle, and I don’t remember the guy being as intense as he was last Saturday. Random Detail: Hekselman used two bricks stacked upon each other as a footrest. By the Way: You can catch Pat Bianchi at 9 p.m. every Sunday night at Dazzle with the DOS Trio.