Though he’s lived in New York for the better part of twenty years now, drummer Ari Hoenig still looks forward to playing for audiences in his hometown, Philadelphia. A Mt. Airy native, Hoenig sharpened his skills during the legendary jam sessions at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus.
“I can feel the history of the music when I’m playing in Philadelphia because the audience has a history with that music,” Hoenig says. “They feel the songs more than an audience of people who appreciate the art form but don’t really have a history with it. If you play a standard, they’ll immediately make a connection in their head and have an experience to go with it.”
That’s unique to the city where he was raised, Hoenig continues, which is one reason he continues to trek back to play at Chris’ Jazz Café several times a year. He can always be found on the bandstand there around Christmastime, as he will tonight and tomorrow night with his latest quartet. “I feel at home at Chris’,” he says. “It feels less like a concert scenario because it’s more relaxed and you get to hang out and talk to people. I’ve always really liked it but I think it’s getting better and better. It’s developing into something of an institution in Philadelphia.”
Back in NYC, the 40-year-old drummer has another home base, at the Greenwich Village club Smalls. He’s been performing and sitting in at jam sessions there for most of his time in the city, and these days anchors Smalls’ Monday night line-up. It was there, during the regular jam session that follows his own gig, that Hoenig first heard the young tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, who will be joining him this weekend at Chris’. Continue reading →