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Billy Hart: A Hart of a Drummer

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Its always these things that Im learning. Im chasing the newer things and Ill hear a record every now and then and Ill say, God, I was already playing that! I thought I was just trying to learn this now. So I must have stumbled on it by osmosis or something. I must have just learned it in the situation, in the moment - which explains that too, that it can be gotten like that. Everything isnt academic
Billy Hart is one of the unsung giants of jazz drumming. Appearing on classic recordings by Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders, Hart continues to push forward in performances and recordings with Charles Lloyd, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano and Don Byron's Ivey-Divey trio. If he's not in New York playing, he's either touring the globe or teaching at one of five colleges and universities at which he is faculty.

All About Jazz: First of all, I'd like for you to go through your last two weeks again...Do you keep a diary of everything?!

Billy Hart: No, you sort of keep a date book, and compare it with your mortgage note and car. Let's see, where are we now? We're at Friday, so I'm performing with the [Montclair State University] faculty here tonight at Trumpets. Last Tuesday I was at Scullers [in Boston] with Don Byron. Now, there's a great jazz club in Northampton in Massachusetts also: Scullers in Boston, then Northampton. Monday was with Don Byron also, with Jason Moran doing the Ivey-Divey thing. Sunday, I played with Don Byron and Jason, the Ivey-Divey at Newport; Saturday I was at Newport with the Saxophone Summit. Something happened Friday, but I can't remember. But it started with me being here. Then I drove up to Newport. So, what was before that? I got back. I was two days late for this [teaching at Montclair State University]. That means I got back from California, from teaching a drum history class for two days in Healdsburg. That's in Napa, Santa Rosa, wine country—extreme wine country, beautiful! But they also have a jazz festival every year, which I've done for the last five years in a row. And I usually play with two or three groups there.

AAJ: Do festivals that are multi-day events ever contact you in hoping that you'll perform with several groups, or is it totally coincidental that you're playing drums with more than one band?

BH: In this particular case, they set it up, it's just economics. In some cases, there's economics in other places it's coincidental, like playing with Saxophone Summit and Don Byron at Newport is coincidental but it's also going to happen again at the Willisau in Switzerland...Same bands, two bands, that's at the end of the month. So, it means I'll go to Paris and then Willisau with the Saxophone Summit. And then from there, I'll join Don Byron and go to Portugal and then back to Willisau. So it does put a little strain on whoever is dealing with the plane tickets. That's a whole other story......OK, [so] I did the thing at Healdsburg. That was that weekend: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Then I flew back in time to do this [teach] for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. That Friday night I went to Newport. But before Healdsburg, I was home for three or four days from doing the European stuff.

AAJ: You must have some frequent flyer mileage!


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