Billy Hart's CD Sixty-Eight is well named, being his 68th record date for Steeplechase (and his first as a leader on the label), while it was also recorded when he was 68 years old. The veteran drummer recruited five talented, up-and-coming musicians for this session, including pianist Dan Tepfer, trumpeter Jason Palmer, alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, vibraphonist Michael Pinto, and bassist Chris Tordini, which primarily focuses on works by jazz greats who were active in the early '60s. Five of the tracks have connections to Eric Dolphy, the brilliant multi-reed player who died far too young. Alto saxophonist Logan Richardson doesn't try to mimic Dolphy's often jagged flights on his instrument, instead finding his own voice in the interpretations of Dolphy's "Serene" and "Out There," while trumpeter Jason Palmer is the perfect foil for him in Dolphy's tricky "Number Eight" and Mal Waldron's "Fire Waltz." But the spotlight belongs to Hart with his tense solo in a surprisingly brooding rendition of Jaki Byard's "Mrs. Parker of K.C." The young musicians are also up to the challenges of Ornette Coleman's free jazz composition "What Reason" and Sam Rivers' "Beatrice." Hart also encouraged his musicians to contribute their originals. Tepfer's infectious "Punctuations" has an ominous air that makes it sound like it could have been written during the early '60s when Dolphy and Waldron were working together, while Palmer's "That's Just Lovely" is a haunting, beautiful ballad. Billy Hart's inspired drumming is the undercurrent of the date, pushing the younger musicians to play at the top of their respective games.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden