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Published: 2012/04/04
by Pat Buzby

Billy Hart
All Our Reasons


Most current jazz has a sense of difficulty. It’s not easy to play or to market. It is also not easy for younger players to make their own statements in a style with so much history, and it’s a challenge for the elders to pass on what they know in the limited time they have left.

Fortunately, there are still CDs that renew your faith, and this is one. Billy Hart’s music assumes knowledge on the listener’s part: two tracks (“Ohnedaruth,” based on “Giant Steps,” and “Nigeria,” based on “Airegin”) build variations on songs that, back in the late bop years, would have established anyone who could play a good straightforward version as a first rank jazz musician. However, the music is also approachable, varied and concise, with Hart’s melodic writing contrasting well with the more abstract pieces from his sidemen. No track overstays its welcome (for instance, “Tolli’s Dance” winds up after a brilliant sax solo, when one might have expected some anticlimactic further solos to follow) and the program is a well plotted blend of free and rooted, introspective and driving.

Two of the best known of the recent wave of jazz players, saxophonist Mark Turner and pianist Ethan Iversen, appear, and both shine. Turner explores the full range of his instrument while Iversen shows a terse, restrained side rarely in evidence in his work with the Bad Plus. Bassist Ben Street underpins the music with a subtle guidance reminiscent of Charlie Haden’s work with Keith Jarrett’s quartet (an evident influence on the group). The leader, drummer Hart, gets a few solos focusing on melodic tom statements, but he allows his players much of the spotlight, sometimes playing hardly anything, other times steering their solos with surprising interjections.

A few tracks on here take multiple listens to unravel. However, All Our Reasons manages to teach many lessons while being fun at the same time, a feat few releases manage. Jazz may be in a difficult state, but this CD gives hope for its future.

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