Sunday, October 11, 2009

Billy Hart Quartet @ The Village Vanguard

The Village Vanguard is surely the single most important venue in the history of modern jazz. Coltrane's famous recording there would almost be enough to confirm that. But then you add (roughly in order) Bill Evans last recording with Scott LaFaro, Sonny Rollins pianoless, Promethean trio, and Art Pepper's sprawling, nine disc collection of exquisite jazz punctuated by nervous chatter, and you have a lot of immortal genius pouring out of one fountain. You could survive an island exile for a long time with that, if they let you charge up your iPod.

The Vanguard is still at it. If you go to the NPR sponsored Vanguard site you will find a series of live recordings that are an hour plus in length. The most recent are available in MP3 format for free download, so you can add them to your permanent collection. All of the concerts, I believe, can be listened to in Real Player format. They also include MP3 files of interviews with the major players. Some of the artists featured there include Tom Harrell, Terence Blanchard (no kin, so far as I know, darn it), Cedar Walton, Chris Potter and Kenny Baron. That's a powerful lot of jazz to sample and enjoy free. I have long believed that giving away a lot of stuff is the best way to sell a lot more stuff. If you don't believe me, ask Microsoft.

Case in point is the most recent addition: The Billy Hart Quartet. Hart (b. 1940) has played his drums behind a lot of giants, including Miles Davis. The Quartet includes two players I have become interested in: Ethan Iverson on piano, and Mark Turner on tenor saxophone. Ben Street, whom I don't know yet, plays bass. The concert may not achieve immortality, but it includes a lot of very bold jazz composition. I suspect that Iverson is a driving force in the quartet. My reasons for thinking so, and for thinking that Iverson is the real thing, can be found at my earlier post on this fine keyboard player. But Mark Turner, whose Yam Yam I posted briefly on, dominates the sound.

Listening to that live recording encouraged me to shell out for The Billy Hart Quartet, with the same lineup. This is a very solid recording, inventive and provocative, but very accessible. The opening number, Mellow B, is an Iverson composition, and it is the kind of arrangement that makes the music seem suddenly new even to someone who swims in it daily. Hart is obviously worshipful of John Coltrane, as comes out on the Vanguard date. This album is another act of worship.

Here is a sample, a tribute to the pianist penned by Mark Turner. It also has the most compelling drum work from Hart. His cymbals talk to me here. Give it a listen, and don't let the disc get away from you.
Billy Hart/Iverson's Odyssey/The Billy Hart Quartet
My comments sections are like empty tombs right now. Leave me a few words, when you have the time.

ps. There is a great photo collection, including a shot of the Vanguard front.

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