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Album Review: 'All Our Reasons' by the Billy Hart Quartet

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Billy Hart Quartet All Our Reasons
Courtesy of ECM Records
Drummer Billy Hart’s All Our Reasons is a passionate album that is free of cliché and always hits the mark. Hart has recorded hundreds of albums as a sideman with many of the most influential jazz musicians of the last 50 years, including Wayner Shorter, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, and Miles Davis. All Our Reasons is the second album Hart has recorded with his quartet featuring pianist Ethan Iverson, saxophonist Mark Turner, and bassist Ben Street.

With his quartet, consisting of musicians at least 25 years his junior, Hart continues to reinvent himself and make vibrant music that sounds just as fresh as any of his previous work. All Our Reasons turns toward a freer approach than Hart’s 2006 album with the same group, Quartet (High Note), but still maintains a strong sense of swing and group collaboration. The album features pieces composed by Hart, as well as a handful by Iverson and Turner. The compositions lend themselves to loosely-knit forms, and an unrealized sense of imminent unraveling, while remaining vaguely tethered to hard-bop.

The opening track on the album, Billy Hart’s “Song for Balkis,” is a slow-tempo, and slowly developing piece that is presented with patience and sensitivity. The introduction, a subdued drum solo that features Hart rolling lightly over the drums with mallets, sets a hushed mood. A darkness sets in when the ensemble joins in with a rubato exploration of the minor tonality. Hart’s melody in this piece covers a lot of ground. The piece starts with a sublime lyricism, reminiscent of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, with Turner offering a quote from the opening movement of Coltrane’s suite. Soon the melody departs from this deep, droning introduction as the melody leads the group through several cycling phrases, each pulling away from the opening, until at the end of the melody, with a few contrasting call-and-response statements, the band is in a new place, the texture more fragile than before, the mood less assured and more vulnerable.

Turner’s saxophone solo embarks on a winding path through this territory. His phrases sound as though they are in constant dialogue with Hart and Street, whose accompaniment gathers in intensity. An incredible moment in this solo happens as a result of Iverson’s entrance. After staying out of the mix while the intensity gathered, Iverson enters with ascending chords that seem to be building up to a climax in phrase that the band perhaps hadn’t expected yet. The band takes their cue from Iverson, and they reach a brilliant zenith as Turner launches into the altissimo register. It is as if the music was ready for something new to happen, and when it finally did, everyone was ready to respond in whatever way was necessary.

All Our Reasons is full of similar moments filled with unexpectedness, as though the music is a volatile gas that can explode at any minute. The element of surprise, and the sensitive, adaptive playing by the quartet, result in these twists and turns that give the music its own colorful vitality, and make the album worth attentive and repeated listening. Hart’s quartet is a band of strong personalities all with great talent for collaboration, a wonderful combination that is all too rare. All Our Reasons is sure to be among 2012’s best.

Release Date:

March 26th, 2012 on ECM Records

Personnel:

  • Billy Hart – Drums Ethan Iverson – Piano Mark Turner – Tenor Saxophone Ben Street – Bass

Track List:

  1. Song for Balkis
  2. Ohnedaruth
  3. Tolli’s Dance
  4. Nostalgia for the Impossible
  5. Nigeria
  6. Duchess
  7. Wasteland
  8. Old Wood
  9. Imke’s March
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