Tue Sep 17 2002
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Small-group postbop sessions were refined so utterly in the ’50s and ’60s that their modern equivalents compete perpetually with evergreen classics (and rightly so). Ari Hoenig seems uniquely unfazed by this. One of the busiest musicians in the local clubs—he averages three gigs a week—the 34-year-old drummer has kept up a steady pace of releases as a bandleader since 2004. The latest, Bert’s Playground, is a handsome, satisfying listen that makes a compelling case for the continued practice of classically styled jazz.
Driven by the guitars of Jonathan Kriesberg and Gilad Hekselman, the album impresses with traditional fare—including a sumptuous “Embraceable You”—as well as more eccentric statements. Hoenig has long devoted himself to interpreting classic melodies in a solo setting, and Bert’s Playground’s mallet-rendered “ ’Round Midnight” provides a subtle counterpoint to the upbeat “This Little Light of Mine” that closed his last release, Inversations. But as anyone who has witnessed his daring, gangly-armed live performances can attest, Hoenig captivates most at cooking tempos. True to the album title, he treats Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” like a jungle gym, offering an ever-evolving accompaniment that winds through the tune with kinetic glee. And despite the record’s largely traditional tack, you won’t find anything like the knotty, psych-tinged funk of the drummer’s “Green Spleen” on those vintage jazz LPs.
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