Entries tagged with “Billy Hart”.

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, April 2014:

Diego Barber & Craig Taborn, Tales (Sunnyside)

Digital Primitives, Lipsomuch (Hopscotch)

Billy Hart Quartet, One Is the Other (ECM)

Tom Rainey, Obbligato (Intakt)

Pete Robbins, Pyramid (Hate Laugh)

Ton Trio II, On and On (Singlespeed)

This review appears in the November 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

1382427195_knuKirk Knuffke
Chorale (SteepleChase)

By David R. Adler

Cornet specialists aren’t in huge supply, but Kirk Knuffke stands out among this unique lot for his versatility and expressive depth. He’s explored Steve Lacy’s music with Ideal Bread and the Lennie Tristano legacy with Ted Brown. He’s offered a compelling take on the repertoire of Monk, Ellington and Mingus in duets with pianist Jesse Stacken. His sideman work with Matt Wilson, Jon Irabagon and others is vigorous and surefooted.   Chorale, Knuffke’s fourth outing as a leader, finds him in a brilliant lineup with pianist Russ Lossing, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Billy Hart. It’s striking that the nine original pieces all have one-word titles save for the closing “Good Good,” which playfully shifts from uptempo to half-time swing.

Striving for a balance of the written and the freely improvised, Knuffke opens with the former, a plaintive rubato invention called “Wingy.” Hart’s drumming is identifiable within the first minute and its appeal only grows from there, giving more tempo-based pieces such as “Kettle,” “Standing” and “School” a sense of dynamic flux and timbral oddity.

“Madly” revives the hovering feel of the opener but in a much freer context; it’s the longest piece of the set, moving through passages of near silence and ending with Lossing’s fiery unaccompanied piano. The transition from there to “Match” is pretty magical: Lossing is out for the first two minutes while Formanek states a steady bass line and Hart plays hypnotic tom-toms, moving to more jazz-like sticks and cymbals the very moment the piano comes in.

The blend of cornet, bowed bass and piano on the title track does in fact suggest a chorale. This bit of lyrical and offbeat chamber-jazz, rather unlike the album’s other material, yields to free rubato interplay and yet somehow preserves the feeling and direction of the opening statement. It’s the strongest evidence of the band’s profound intuitive connection.

From the April 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

It’s clear right away that pianist Fred Hersch’s “My Coma Dreams” is not a typical concert experience. Hersch premiered the “jazz theater” piece in New Jersey in 2011; the new production at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre (March 2) was altered but substantially similar. Narrator-vocalist Michael Winther portrayed both Hersch and his partner, Scott Morgan, describing the composer’s near-death experience from complications of AIDS. When he sang, Winther brought us inside the dream world that Hersch inhabited while unconscious for six weeks. Hersch played with a calm and luminous authority, fronting a midsized ensemble of reeds, brass, strings and rhythm conducted by Gregg Kallor (with standout solos from tenorist Adam Kolker, altoist Bruce Williamson and trumpeter Ralph Alessi). The music floated largely free of genre, although bassist John Hébert and drummer John Hollenbeck ensured that it swung when needed on episodes such as “Dream of Monk” and “Jazz Diner.” Winther was drowned out a couple of times by the band — something that didn’t happen at the premiere — but otherwise the sound was pristine. Hersch’s solitary piano on “The Boy” and Joyce Hammann’s viola feature on “Brussels” were simply stunning. In detailing a medical trauma, the show arrived at moving insights on life, love and the human condition. One haunting line in “The Knitters” took on multiple meanings as it was repeated: “We end as we begin.” (David R. Adler)


From the loopy, elliptical way that drummer Billy Hart addressed the second-set crowd at Dizzy’s (March 14), it was easy to see how at home he feels with the members of his working quartet — tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street. Continuing in the exploratory vein of All Our Reasons, the band’s extraordinary 2012 debut for ECM, Hart shifted his focus to new music — some of which could appear on a follow-up for ECM in the works. “Yard,” based on the Charlie Parker blues “Cheryl,” was wide open harmonically (after his venturesome turn, Iverson got off the bench and let Turner solo without chords). Hart’s “Amethyst,” radically reworked from its early ’90s origins, grew from slow atmospheric rubato to raging dissonance, at last falling into tempo for an elegant written theme and finish. “Motional,” another earlier Hart composition, took on an easygoing Caribbean lilt, while Iverson’s “Neon,” from the 2006 HighNote release Quartet, closed the set in a 12/8 feel full of urgency and tension. Turner and Iverson showed a fearsome rapport on the pianist’s “Big Trees,” trading full choruses on rhythm changes, mostly without bass. Turner’s contribution, the lyrical midtempo swinger “Sonnet for Stevie” — “dig that,” remarked Hart when he said the title — highlighted the leader’s ability to reorient the conversation with a perfectly placed accent, a drop in ride cymbal volume, just the right thing in the moment. The time ebbed and flowed but never wavered. (DA)

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, April 2012:

Josh Ginsburg, Zembla Variations (BJU)

Billy Hart, All Our Reasons (ECM)

Brad Mehldau Trio, Ode (Nonesuch)

Michael Musillami Trio + 4, Mettle (Playscape)

Gregory Porter, Be Good (Motéma)

Ben Wendel, Frame (Sunnyside)

This review appears in the May 2011 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

Billy Hart, Sixty-Eight (SteepleChase)
Brian Landrus Quartet, Traverse (BlueLand)
Mads Vinding Trio, Open Minds (Storyville)

By David R. Adler

At 70, Billy Hart is an icon of modern jazz drumming, and his work is far from done. Fueled by a restless creativity, he’s taken a new class of younger artists under his wing, working with them in varied settings as both a leader and sideman. With three new CDs we get a snapshot of his recent playing in sextet, quartet and trio formats. The recordings do him justice to varying degrees, but they all reveal a responsive and highly seasoned musicianship, a presence as energized as it is understated.

On Sixty-Eight we hear the drummer as leader: It is Hart’s 68th appearance on a SteepleChase record date, and also his age at the time of this session. The focus is progressive early ’60s repertory, and Hart’s frontline players, trumpeter Jason Palmer and altoist Logan Richardson, bring a razor’s-edge quality to the music. Unfortunately, pianist Dan Tepfer is swallowed up in the mix, and the blend of piano with Michael Pinto’s vibraphone muddies the harmonic landscape — even if Tepfer and Pinto both play superbly throughout. Chris Tordini’s bass ends up being one of the better-captured solo instruments.

If the production on Sixty-Eight is so-so, the music itself is strong. Hart brings an adventurous, firmly swinging drive to pieces by Eric Dolphy, Mal Waldron, Sam Rivers and Jaki Byard. He opens with Ornette Coleman’s ethereal “What Reason” and also gives a platform to Tepfer and Palmer as composers: the former with the 20-bar blues “Punctuations,” the latter with the ballad “That’s Just Lovely” (which it is).

Traverse, a quartet disc from baritone saxophonist/bass clarinetist Brian Landrus, finds Hart in a support role alongside pianist Michael Cain and bassist Lonnie Plaxico. There’s no sonic overcrowding here. The title track, co-composed by Landrus and Cain, is a flowing waltz that spotlights Hart’s distinctively subtle accents and cross-rhythms. Hart is also busily unpredictable on “Lydian 4,” Landrus’s most striking original, and “Gnosis,” another less notable Landrus/Cain creation in 12/8. As a horn stylist, Landrus is captivating, particularly unaccompanied on “Soul and Body” or in duo with Cain on “Lone” and “Soundwave.” But the offerings on Traverse feel thin compared to Landrus’s dynamic 2009 release Forward (also featuring Cain, as well as Jason Palmer).

Danish bassist Mads Vinding had the good taste to hire Hart for Open Minds, a trio date featuring pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, and here yet another side of Hart emerges. Whereas Sixty-Eight and Traverse find Hart pushing the soloists with assertive tom-tom fills and such, Open Minds is a forum for Hart the minimalist. The session is not without fire, but Hart often deploys brushes and stays out of the way while Pilc does his deconstructive best. The menu includes standards such as “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “My Funny Valentine” and “How Deep Is the Ocean,” and if anyone can renew these old workhorses, Pilc can. The pianist’s constant departures from familiar scripts make this a more rewarding date than True Story, Pilc’s 2010 trio session with Hart and bassist Boris Kozlov.

Along with Vinding’s intriguing title track and Pilc’s “Golden Key,” Hart’s lyrical “Irah” is a welcome addition to Open Minds — calmer and more straightforward than the version on Hart’s 1993 album Amethyst, closer to his rendition with Ethan Iverson and Mark Turner on 2006’s Quartet. In any case, it’s ample proof of Hart’s fine melodic instinct and well-rounded artistry.