159

Billy Hart: Quartet

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Billy Hart: Quartet In a decades-long career that's seen him on hundreds of albums with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Pat Martino, Billy Hart has released only a handful of records as a leader. That may go some way towards explaining why he doesn't have the same cachet with the larger listening public as drummers like Jack DeJohnette. Still, when he does put out a record, it's always worth checking out. Quartet, his first release since Oceans of Time (Arabesque, 1997), may be the most unapologetically mainstream disc he's ever made, but it's never predictable—due, in no small part, to the company he keeps.

It's also the result of Hart's quartet—featuring pianist Ethan Iverson, perennially undervalued tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, and bassist Ben Street—being no one-off studio construction. They've been gigging around the New York area for three years, and it shows. Iverson's "Mellow B begins with a crash of dissonance, leading into an ominous walking bass line from Street that gives Hart the first solo of the set, before Iverson and Turner deliver its spartan yet idiosyncratic theme. It's testimony to Turner and Iverson's abilities to keep things off-kilter that, while at its core it's a blues, it remains full of surprises.

Even John Coltrane's famous "Moment's Notice gets a quirky reading. Iverson teases with a straightforward intro, but when Turner enters with a long, raspy low note, it's clear this group is avoiding literal interpretation. Likewise, Charlie Parker's "Confirmation appears reverential from the top, but when it opens into Turner's solo Iverson accompanies with a series of outré chords that take the song places Parker could never have envisaged.

Hart's four compositions are more down-the-center, with the lyrical "Charvez and darkly serene "Lullaby for Imke standing out as the disc's most pure and beautiful moments. It's easy to imagine these and the medium tempo "Irah as strong vehicles for a Bill Evans-style approach, however Iverson steadfastly avoids any kind of romantic classicism. Despite a gentler and less blocky tack than he employs with the Bad Plus, he gives them a unique complexion. Turner, especially on "Lullaby for Imke, reaches into the upper register, sounding delicate while never losing his robust tone. "Lorca has more energy, and while its rhythmic twists and turns may be no surprise for a tune written by a drummer, its harmonic sophistication is.

One look at Hart's sideman work is proof of his stylistic elasticity, but as his own body of work gradually grows, the breadth of his ability becomes even more remarkable. Quartet may be a mainstream record, but it's a wholly modernistic one where Hart's group approaches the middle from a decidedly left-of-center point of view.


Track Listing: Mellow B; Moment's Notice; Charvez; Confirmation; Lorca; Irah; Lullaby For Imke; Iverson's Odyssey; Neon.

Personnel: Billy Hart: drums; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Ethan Iverson: piano; Ben Street: bass.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: HighNote Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Porto da Madama" CD/LP/Track Review Porto da Madama
by Budd Kopman
Published: May 25, 2016
Read "Out 'N' In" CD/LP/Track Review Out 'N' In
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Poetry For The Beat Generation" CD/LP/Track Review Poetry For The Beat Generation
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "Soundscapes" CD/LP/Track Review Soundscapes
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 4, 2016
Read "Left" CD/LP/Track Review Left
by John Sharpe
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "The Outlier" CD/LP/Track Review The Outlier
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!