Ari Hoenig has a slightly compulsive relationship with his drum set. He doesn’t find the groove and cruise, or at least not for long: he looks for ways to irrigate his band’s music, to get trickles of rhythm seeping into all the cracks.
And at regular intervals he changes the rhythm, pouring it out or stoppering it, turning its emphasis around, subdividing or refocusing it and making it follow the melody.
For the last four years he’s had a regular Monday gig at Smalls, leading bands with various groupings of musicians: often a quartet with the musicians in his orbit, including the saxophonist Will Vinson, the guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and the pianist Jean-Michel Pilc. This summer he’s been working in a trio with the young Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman, who arrived in New York five years ago, and the English bassist Orlando Le Fleming. That trio played at the club on Monday night, and you could see how quickly precision has set in.
The payoff arrives in this band without much delay. The set started with Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” which Mr. Hoenig has thoroughly altered: it starts and ends slowly, with a highly rearranged theme and extra arrangements to frame the solos. But there was a stretch of flat-out double time in the middle, and Mr. Hekselman, playing complex chords with extended harmony — the higher science of jazz academia, but done with passion — moved his solo toward a peak. About two minutes in, the audience began yelling.
The Ari Hoenig Trio performs on Monday at Smalls, 183 West 10th Street, West Village.
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