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Sunday 12/23/2018 Show: Billy Hart

Photo: Billy Hart | © Girard Turner, 2017

The next show will air on Sunday December 23, 2018 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast features an interview with composer, drummer/percussionist and educator Billy Hart. It also kicks off our coverage of the 2019 Winter Jazz Fest.

Billy Hart was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Jazz was in his blood. His family lived five blocks from the Spotlite Club, where the underage drummer pressed his ear to the window to listen to the Coltrane-Adderley-Evans edition of the Miles Davis Sextet, and the Lee Morgan-Benny Golson edition of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. His father, a mathematician and “an intellectual cat who demanded respect and knew a lot about a lot,” was a staunch Ellington fan; his paternal grandmother had played piano for Marian Anderson and knew William Grant Still. His mother was devoted to Jimmie Lunceford; his maternal grandmother—who bought him his first “good drum set for a gig with a good bebop band”—was a friend of D.C. tenor hero Buck Hill, who turned Hart on to Charlie Parker, and hired him at 17 for nine months of weekend gigs at a spot called Abart’s, where fellow McKinley High School students Reuben Brown and Butch Warren joined him six nights a week as the house rhythm section.

Hart matriculated at Howard University as a mechanical engineering major, but left when Shirley Horn, who had hired him out of Abart’s, took him on the road. Hart credits her with teaching him to play bebop at a simmer, not a roar. He also learned Brazilian rhythms from the source on early ’60s sub jobs at Charlie Byrd’s Showboat Lounge with Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and Bola Sete.

Hart apprenticed with Washington, D.C. native sons like Jimmy Cobb, Osie Johnson, Ben Dixon, Harry “Stump” Saunders and George “Dude” Brown. Through local connections, he had backstage access to the Howard Theatre, where he analyzed such master New Orleanian drummers as Idris Muhammad (the Impressions), Clayton Filliard (James Brown), Ed Blackwell and Earl Palmer (Ray Charles). In 1967, he occupied the drum chair in the theater’s house band performing with The Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave, Patti Labelle, Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles among others.

He was also a sideman with Jimmy Smith (1964–1966), and Wes Montgomery (1966–1968). Following Montgomery’s death in 1968, Hart moved to New York, where he recorded with McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, and Joe Zawinul, and played with Eddie Harris, Pharoah Sanders, and Marian McPartland.

In 1969, Hart joined Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi band and remained there for four years recording three trend-setting albums. From there he joined McCoy Tyner’s band (1973–1974) and also performed with Stan Getz (1974–1977), and Quest (1980s) in addition to extensive freelance playing and recording (including recording with Miles Davis on 1972’s On the Corner).

Howard classmate Marion Brown introduced Hart to Sunny Murray and Rashied Ali. Hart increasingly self-identified as an experimental musician, drawing on their example in a trio with Joe Chambers on piano and Walter Booker on bass. Later, during mid and late ’60s stopovers in Chicago with Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery and Eddie Harris, he attended to the “textural, timbral approaches” of AACM drummers Thurman Barker, Steve McCall and Alvin Fielder. He applied those lessons during two years with Pharoah Sanders, a period when, via percussionist Mtume, he received the sobriquet “Jabali” (Swahili for “wisdom”). Hart’s mature tonal personality—advanced grooves drawing on “some knowledge of African and Indian music, and all the American traditions”—emerged during his years with Hancock’s Mwandishi band and subsequent tenure with McCoy Tyner.

Hart drew on all these experiences in conceptualizing Enchance, his debut album as a leader and subsequently, Oshumare (1985), Rah (1987), Amethyst (1993) and Oceans of Time (1997). On each record, he assembled idiosyncratic virtuosos from different circles, each signifying a stream of cutting-edge jazz thought. Functioning more as a facilitator than a stylist, he meshed their distinctive personalities, generating fresh ideas through intense drum dialogue. Each date has a singular quality, as though Hart had conjured a unitary vision out of various strains of the zeitgeist.

Hart currently leads the Billy Hart Quartet featuring Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson and Ben Street. They have recorded three CDs, the most recent, One is the Other, is on ECM Records.

(Bio adapted from The Cookers’s website)

This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

The Billy Hart Quartet is scheduled to appear as part of the Winter Jazz Festival NYC on the ECM Records Stage at Le Poisson Rouge during the Saturday, January 12, Marathon Night.The 2019 WJF runs from January 4-12 at several venues in downtown Manhattan and includes a series of talks. See the full lineup and details on their website.

Web Extras:

Watch a preview of Hart’s All Our Reasons album

Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman College in the City University of New York system.

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Sunday 11/11/2018 Show: Eddie Henderson

Photo: Eddie Henderson @ 2013 Winter Jazz Fest in New York | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.

The next show will air on Sunday November 11, 2018 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast features an interview with trumpeter, flugelhorn player, and composer Eddie Henderson who has been a member of two supergroups: Mwandishi and The Cookers.

Jazz trumpeter extraordinaire Eddie Henderson received his first informal lesson on the trumpet at the age of 9 from Louis Armstrong. As a teenager he studied trumpet at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and performed with the San Francisco Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. In 1957, Eddie met Miles Davis for the first time. Miles, a family friend, admired the strikingly beautiful tone and musicality of Henderson’s trumpet playing and encouraged him to pursue a career in music. As a family friend, Miles has been a major musical influence throughout Henderson’s life. That culminated in May of 2002 with the recording of So What, a tribute to Miles that features songs associated with the legend. As Henderson puts it, “Miles is so very special to me because when I was in high school he stayed in my parent’s house when he came through San Francisco. I was going to the conservatory then studying classical music. I saw him do all these songs live that I recorded on the tribute album.”

Henderson had the good fortune of meeting many famous musicians growing up (including getting those early tips from Satchmo) because his parents were both entertainers. His mother was a dancer at the original Cotton Club and his father a member of the popular singing group Billy Williams and the Charioteers. His stepfather was a doctor to people like Miles, Coltrane and Duke Ellington, so the association with musicians continued. In addition to excelling on his instrument, Eddie excelled academically enough to go to medical school and become a doctor.

From 1968 until the late ‘80s, Henderson mixed music and medicine. He received his first major musical exposure as a member of Herbie Hancock’s trailblazing Mwandishi sextet, an ensemble that also included young innovators such as Bennie Maupin, Julian Priester, Buster Williams and Billy Hart. From 1969 through 1973 they recorded Mwandishi and Crossings for Warner Bros. and Sextant for Columbia. His experiences with Hancock exerted a profound influence on Henderson as reflected in the music on his first two solo albums, Realization and Inside Out, recorded in 1972 and 1973 for Capricorn Records.

After leaving Hancock, the trumpeter worked extensively with Pharoah Sanders, Norman Connors and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Eddie returned to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975 where he joined the Latin-jazz group Azteca and fronted his own bands. The expressive rhythmic thrust of Henderson’s jazz/fusion experiences manifested itself on his Blue Note recordings Sunburst and Heritage and in 1977, he broke through with a single on the Billboard charts, “Prance On” (from the album Comin’ Through).

Eddie has also performed with such notables as Dexter Gordon, Roy Haynes, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Benny Golson, Max Roach and McCoy Tyner.

(Bio adapted from The Cookers’ website)

This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Web Extras:

Watch Henderson play “Cantaloupe Island” in this 2009 live performance.

Watch Henderson play with Mwandishi in this 1972 live clip.

Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman College in the City University of New York system.

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