Rhythm is at least equal to harmony in the scheme of human evolution. The European concept related harmony to emotion so clearly that it used to seem like the only way to do it. At this point, we know differently: obviously rhythm can give you that same emotional value.”
Billy Hart, who was born in 1940 in Washington, DC, is a jazz drummer and educator who has performed with some of the most important jazz musicians in history.
Early on Hart performed in Washington, DC with soul artists such as Otis Redding and Sam and Dave, and was a sideman with the Montgomery Brothers (1961), Jimmy Smith (1964–6), and Wes Montgomery (1966–8). Following Montgomery’s death in 1968, Hart moved to New York, where he recorded with McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul, and played with Eddie Harris, Pharoah Sanders and Marian McPartland. Hart was a member of Herbie Hancock’s sextet (1969–73), and played with McCoy Tyner (1973–4), Stan Getz (1974–7), and Quest (1980s), in addition to extensive freelance playing (including recording with Miles Davis on On the Corner in 1972).
Though Hart’s debut as a leader on ECM, All Our Reasons, dates from 2011, he first recorded for the label back in 1974; his swinging beat and delicate cymbal tracery were heard with Bennie Maupin on the classic Jewel In The Lotus, and for ten years he was a member of the Charles Lloyd Quartet, playing on such influential albums as The Call, All My Relations, Canto and Lift Every Voice.
The Billy Hart Quartet – consisting of Mark Turner (saxophone), Ethan Iverson (piano) and Ben Street (bass) – was formed in 2003 and has played to packed houses each year in New York. All Our Reasons was followed in 2014 by One is the Other, which John Fordham hailed in the Guardian as “superb”, praising the huge breadth of the jazz tradition which the quartet subtly reference.
Since the early 1990s, Hart spends considerable time at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and is adjunct faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music and Western Michigan University. He also conducts private lessons through The New School and New York University.