Monday, March 02, 2020

Billy Hart interview

Photo by Anthony Porcar Cano
More Billy Hart. Michael Griener sent me this 1994 Modern Drummer interview by Ken Micallef, and it's excellent. It gives a much fuller picture of his musical intellect than I got to see in the clinic. This is high level player's philosophy.

Micallef says at the beginning, “Categorizing Hart's contribution is no easy task. Among the four hundred or so albums Hart has recorded— including his solo records— one hears a musician not so much in love with the drums as with the possibilities they hold for expression within the music.” I think that may be part of why I have been slow to get into his playing seriously— he doesn't project an overt drumming personality the same way as some other players. No one would ever dismiss him as being a stylist.

I'm going to excerpt the interview pretty heavily, because that's what this site is about: collecting important information about drumming. So thank you Ken and thank you Modern Drummer, without you this important contribution to the literature of drumming would not exist. Subscribe to MD and call up Ken and tell him thank you.

Anybody can be a great instrumentalist. It's simply a matter of technique. The difference is in musicianship. You can be a great instrumentalist, but there are very few musicians.

Coltrane once told me about Elvin, “No matter how tense the situation gets, Elvin never tightens up.” I learned what that means. You don't mind taking chances in certain situations because you have confidence that it will come out. Or you enjoy reaching for it even if it doesn't come out.

[Milford Graves and Sunny Murray] were like magic; they conjured up spirits and ghosts and rainbow. You could actually believe that these guys could make it rain and give you visions. It was psychedelic. Now the high comes from precision and technique

The point is that what makes a rhythm you play groove is not that you're approximating a record, but that the groove is correct from what was played centuries ago in Africa. It's a rhythmic significance that's built on this heavy intelligence. Over centuries of playing they've come up with something that is so correct that when you play it accurately, based on the history, people are going to respond euphorically. 

...the rhythmic reason for this is to make people feel good. On the highest level you actually heal people, both physically and psychologically. It makes people happy and it makes them move. That's the purpose of drumming in the first place. The dance. That's the point of anyone playing the drums.

Q: Where do those soaring buzz rolls that you play come from?   
A: Art Blakey, but he would always conclude it with a cymbal crash. Tony would do it with single strokes, but not conclude it, he'd leave it empty. 

Girls are always slightly behind the beat, but in the pocket. Watch them snap their fingers to the beat. They're sitting on it. It's what Gadd and Chambers are masters at. How come that shit never slows down? 

Joao Gilberto used to tell me: “Play like the wind, play like rain.” Miles said the same thing. “Start everything on 4 and don't finish nothin'.”

How you resolve something is the key. You resolve it, but don't conclude it in a logical way. Find something else hip to play. You're concluding it, but in a more abstract way. That's what all the geniuses did. 

Also see Ethan Iverson's interview with Hart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A great drummer and a very nice person from what I gathered by talking with him after a concert some years ago.
Another good interview:
While looking for it, I also came across this one: