“He’s not a metronome,” volunteered one of my resident jazz experts on Billy Hart, age 73, who’s logged time with Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, Chico Freeman, and three of Miles Davis’s straightest-up hardest-rockin’ sets. And no, he doesn’t set the time he’s assigned to keep, with regularity punctuated by fills. He’s sly, and soft, letting your ears come to him — but if you tried to set a clock by his right hand, you’d find it wandering off into other-dimensional precision. Like a jigsaw he cuts sure, but never the same shapes twice.
One Is the Other finds him alongside tenor man Mark Turner, bassist Ben Street, and pianist Ethan Iverson, all young enough to be his sons, but old enough to sit in musical conversation with the father figure. Turner’s “Lennie Groove” reaches back to pianist Lennie Tristano — doyen of dropped beats, shifting keys, Bach figures swung through a 12/8 feel — but adroitly moistens the slight starch of Tristano concoctions; a flow no less a flow for its passage through a few gates.
If instrumentalists make kinds of emotional sense rather than literal (lyrics-bound) sense, then this is the sound of four men meeting in someone’s clubhouse basement. Not plotting an urban revolution, but formulating their statement through consensus, shaping an overall argument like a shoemaker pulling welt over a wooden foot. All put in, and then Hart, the motor and the soul, nods affirmation. So many different ways to say yes. And so many things to say it to.
- Album: One Is the Other
- Artist: Billy Hart Quartet
- Label: ECM
- Songs: (1) Lennie Groove (2) Maraschino (3) Teule’s Redemption (4) Amethyst (5) Yard (6) Sonnet for Stevie (7) Some Enchanted Evening (8) Big Trees