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An Interview With Ari Hoenig

World renowned drummer Ari Hoenig has played in groups such as the Jean Michel Pilc Trio, Kenny Werner Trio, Chris Potter Underground, Kurt Rosenwinkel Group, Joshua Redman Elastic Band, Jazz Mandolin Project and bands led by Wayne Krantz, Mike Stern, Richard Bona, Pat Martino, Dave Leibman and Bojan Z.  He has also shared the stage with such artists as Herbie Hancock, Ivan Linz, Wynton Marsalis, Toots Theilmans, Dave Holland, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny and Gerry Mulligan.

An integral part of the New York City jazz scene, Ari Hoenig is changing the way drums are played todayHis unique approach to the instrument has distinguished him as an innovator and an incredible musical talent.

Ari graciously took some time to answer a few questions for us at Learn Jazz Standards:

LJS: Who were some of your greatest influences early on in your career?

AH: Earl Harvin, Keith Jarrent, John Roberts, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland.

LJS: Which musicians inspire you today?

AH: Kenny Werner, Tigran Hamasyan, Gilad Hekselman, Jean Michel Pilc, Tivon Pennicott, Shai Maestro.

LJS: Talk about some pivotal moments in your career.

AH: Probably the biggest one was making my first record “The Painter” and being able to tour with this band after it’s release.

LJS: Any favorite jazz clubs you like to play at? 

AH: My favorite club to play at is Smalls. I play there most Monday’s. It does a live stream which is available too. To check when I’m playing there visit:

LJS: What advice would you give to the next generation of upcoming jazz musicians? 

AH: Don’t be afraid of your own creative urges. Embrace them and develop your unique ideas.

LJS: Any new projects coming up? Records, tours…etc?

AH: Looking forward to getting a big band project off the ground. Noam Wiesenberg has written the arrangements for big band.My latest record is also recommended: Lines of Oppression

LJS: What is your philosophy on teaching rhythm?

AH:  I put out a couple of books early on about metric modulation. While effective, they were aimed at already advanced players and many who bought it were rhythmically deficient. So I came up with a thorough and structured approach to learning rhythm which I would say is the best source for improving your ability to interact with the musicians your playing with while improvising.  This is the first thing I do with my students:  Rhythm Training Masterclass

LJS: How would you describe your approach to the music?

AH: I try to be in the moment all the time and create something different even if it doesn’t work.

LJS: What got you into jazz and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

AH: I started playing Rock and Jazz at the same time. I probably play jazz most often now because it allows me to improvise.

LJS: Describe your musical education.

AH: Listening to masters mostly. Seeing live music whenever possible. I also had many great teachers who helped me. Carl Motolla, Ed Soph, Ralph Peterson, John Riley.

LJS: Talk about your approach to composing.  

AH: I hate composing. Well, I mean I hate the process of it. I like the end result of it most of the time. Basically I take an idea that’s in my head and try to expand on it. I get stuck a lot. I try to start from different perspectives. Harmonic, melodic, rhythmic. Maybe try starting with a bass line first. Each way yields different results. I never studied composition but I was always composing immediately when I started playing a new instrument.  Violin, Piano etc…

 -LJS 2014


Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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