Billy Hart – Billy Hart Quartet – High Note Records

by | Sep 13, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Billy Hart – Billy Hart Quartet – High Note Records  HCD 7158,  67:03 ****:

(Artists: Billy Hart, drums; Mark Turner, tenor sax; Ethan Iverson, piano; Ben Street, bass)

Billy Hart has been on the cutting edge of Jazz for well over 45 years now. Known as a creative drummer who can fit into any setting, Hart began his career in the early 1960’s while living in Washington D.C., and backing DC stalwarts Buck Hill and Shirley Horn. He then moved on to drumming for heavyweights Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery in the later 60s. The 1970s were more of an adventurous decade mixing electric sessions with Herbie Hancock’s sextet along with time spent with McCoy Tyner and Stan Getz. Billy even found time then to drum for Miles Davis on his funky electric set, On the Corner.

His dates as a recording band leader have been relatively rare with just 3 recording sessions in both the 1980s and 1990s. Jump forward to 2006 when Hart has returned to the recording studio as a leader for the first time in 9 years for this new High Note quartet recording. Hart’s bandmates here are young enough to be his sons. They include the developing but still established Mark Turner on tenor sax, pianist Ethan Iverson, known as the band leader of the avant super group, Bad Plus, and bassist, Ben Street.

This CD runs the gamut from the avant garde of both Mellow B and Neon, written by Iverson. They would both fit easily on a Bad Plus session. However, we also have more traditional introspective fare provided by Hart’s own Charvez (named for Hart’s wife) that features a mellow introduction by Iverson and soft touches from Turner. Charlie Parker’s Confirmation is done relatively straight ahead with Hart front and center and Turner providing more of a background voice for the first half of the tune before stepping forward with some “Parkerisms” of his own.

Lorca is a modal number named for Hart’s son, who is a professional drummer himself. The ballad Irah is especially moving and Turner’s tenor and bassist Street’s work here stand out. Lullabye for Imke, completes Hart’s family honors as its beauty is dedicated to Hart’s young daughter, Imke.

Billy Hart has spent much of the last decade teaching after playing on 500+ records as a sideman. This CD is only his eighth as a recording leader. Hopefully, this quartet recording will bring enough acclaim and airplay to encourage Hart to record more often as a leader, and maybe bring along an ignored veteran jazz man into his fold in future endeavors.

Songs: Mellow B, Moment’s Notice, Charvez, Confirmation, Lorca, Irah, Lullabye for Imke, Iverson’s Odyssey, Neon

– Jeff Krow

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