Billy Hart


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Billy Hart is a perfect example of a drummer who has an impressively long list of sideman credits but has only recorded sporadically as a leader. One of the few sessions that he led in the 1980s was 1985's Oshumare, a Gramavision date that has one foot in fusion and the other in straight-ahead post-bop. Hart oversees an interesting blend of acoustic and electric instruments; Dave Holland is on upright bass, while the electric contributions come from Kenny Kirkland or Mark Gray on keyboards and Bill Frisell or Kevin Eubanks on electric guitar. Rounding out the cast --which could almost be described an all-star cast -- are Branford Marsalis on tenor sax, Steve Coleman on alto sax, Didier Lockwood on violin, and Manolo Badrena on percussion. However, the use of the term all-star would be a slight exaggeration because not all of the musicians became major names in jazz -- although most of them did. But it is no exaggeration to say that Hart leads an impressive cast of players on this CD or that the material is generally solid; that is true of Hart's Latin-flavored "Lorca" as well as Frisell's mysterious "Waiting Outside" and Eubank's abstract "IDGAF Suite." Parts of Oshumare are essentially straight-ahead, especially Holland's fast-paced "Cosmosis." But this album cannot honestly be described as the work of a jazz purist. One minute Hart is straight-ahead, and the next he encourages Eubanks or Kirkland to take things in more of a fusion direction. And that speaks well of the drummer (who was 44 or 45 when this album was recorded), because it demonstrates that he is willing to listen to what younger musicians have to say. Oshumare makes listeners wish that Hart had recorded more albums as a leader in the 1980s.

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