Billy Hart: A Hart of a Drummer
AAJ: And all of these guys are moving on to create, and you obviously have had a very significant influence on a young crop of drummers that have come up in the last five years in particular...probably also from when you were teaching ten, twenty, thirty years agoI don't know how long you've been teaching.
BH: Well, I wasn't always teaching...Now it's funny when you see these little kids, or even the colleges at which I teach. You know I teach at five universities, and at the same time! Did you know that?!
AAJ: How do you keep track of all this?! [laughs]
BH: I'm at NYU on staff and New School University. So, between those, I could have as much as 12 students, but they come to my house. The other schools are Western Michigan University. I've been there the longest, like 13, 14, 15 years. But now my priority is OberlinI've been there six years because they gave me benefits and all that, and my own room and the whole thing. I do try and show up there with some sort of consistency. It's still getting there in an airplane. The thing that is complicating things most is that the last three years I've been at New England Conservatory, too [laughs]!
AAJ: Are there three other Billy Harts running around somewhere? [laughs]
BH: ...You know, being addicted to the new things, like if I just have a Tyshawn Sorey at each one of these schools, my addiction, my jones is being fed on this massive level. I had a kid at New England Conservatory when I first got there. I asked everybody because you know they have other drumming instructors as that's one of the primary instrumentsso I said, "OK, for you guys to choose me, just so I can help you: What is it particularly about me that you would want, that I could help you which would be different from Bob Moses, or so-and-so?
One guy came up and said well, "I'm interested in you because you played with Herbie Hancock. And I said, "That's very interesting, but I haven't played with him in like thirty years. Why would that interest you? He said, "Well, because I'm playing with him now. I said, "Really? What year are you? He says, "Yeah. I'm a sophomore. I said, "What do you mean 'playing with him'? He said, "I travel with him, I tour with him. I said, "Really? He said, "I've got a video. Next class I'll bring a video of the concert. And sure enough, he did. After Herbie did the Gershwin project [Gershwin's World Verve, 1998)], there was another thing. He and Wayne both have these chamber orchestra projects they do. And so with the chamber orchestra project this kid is the drummer. And he's so great if Terri Lyne [Carrington] can't make it, he's already being geared to go. And he's great. I mean, he really is great! And that's my student. I had him for another two years. You know what I'm saying?
So, if you have one of those at each one of these schools, you see what I mean? In fact, at his graduation recital, he ended up making his own recording, that is at the same timehe made his own commercial recording, and Herbie's on two tracks! I mean, who in the world?! I could never get Herbie Hancock on two tracks of my own [recording]! His name is Richie Barshay. You're going to be hearing about this guy. On this CD, on his record, he plays on one tune tabla and drums at the same time. That doesn't mean that much to you now, except that I will tell you that the future of jazz drumming as I see it implies the study of tablas, of Indian drumming.
AAJ: Jeff Ballard does that.
BH: Jeff Ballard, and there's a new cat in townDanny Weiss. He just made a record of tabla translated to the drum set that's the best that's ever been done...
AAJ: ...Now, speaking of Herbie. I've always been curious if there's any reason as to the lack of a Mwandishi reunion.
BH: One of the things about Herbie that's understated, is that as much a musical genius as I think he is, he's a phenomenal genius at business. He got that from studying with certain mentorsDonald Byrd, for instance. You've to remember that when he had the Blackbyrds, he was flying his own airplane. There are certain guys who are commercial successes beyond the thing, the level, that what we see. They're not on Entertainment Tonight. Like they made a movie about Ray Charles but conceivably Ray Charles is above what we think of as normal commercialism. They have a genius that's above that. [For instance] the name of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters is Herbie's. So, occasionally, they tour and he may not be with them, but it's his business.