Billy Hart Quartet at The Blue Whale

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I don’t often promote local appearances by visiting jazz superstars, but I’m going to make an exception. Billy Hart Quartet: Mark Turner (tenor), Ethan Iverson (piano), Ben Street (double bass), and Billy (drums) is a sensational and beautiful group. I can’t stop listening to the new ECM album, One is the Other. I mentioned it in a recent Rhythm Planet show as music that’s part of my current faves. The last time I saw Billy Hart was at The Lighthouse way back when, so it’s been long time. They are playing this Thursday (6/19) and Friday (6/20) at The Blue Whale in downtown LA. Show time for both nights is 9 pm.

one is the other
Billy Hart Quartet’s latest album: One Is The Other (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Billy Hart has been making records for different labels for 30 years, but One is the Other is only his second one for ECM, a label with high performance, excellent recorded sound and great packaging. So it’s a good match for the veteran drummer. He also is working with a band that’s been together for a long time (Turner, Iverson, and Street). Both Turner and Iverson are good composers who turn in compositions for the new album. The first cut, “Lennie Groove” is an homage to the great pianist Lennie Tristano. Later comes Iverson’s “Maraschino” and my favorite track, “Teule’s Redemption”, is a piece written by Hart for one of his sons. Hart also dusts off an old standard, “Some Enchanted Evening” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Billy Hart is a drum poet: the textures, colors, and rhythms he coaxes from the trap drums have made him a much in-demand drummer. He’s worked with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and other top stars.

Los Angeles involves lots of driving and jazz clubs are few and far between. Joon Lee has done a great job with The Blue Whale located in the heart of downtown’s Little Tokyo: the space is nice, the food tasty, prices very reasonable. The vibe is good too, and people listen. But most of all, he is booking exceptional talent–both domestic and imported–on a regular basis. Without The Blue Whale, many groups wouldn’t have a place to play. We jazz fans should be grateful and support his efforts. Click here to read Joon Lee’s story covered by NPR a couple of years ago on how he turned this former, run down karoke bar into one of the city’s great jazz venues. Again, thanks to The Blue Whale for providing a space, a home for musicians to shine.

A lot of LA’s jazz fans will be in the audience for both of the Billy Hart Quartet shows. I’m planning to go Thursday so as to avoid the crowd. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Here’s a clip of the quartet performing from last year.