All Our Reasons
A blindfold listening to All Our Reasons would hardly alert you to the fact that the drummer — and nominal leader of the band — is, on average, nearly 30 years younger than his colleagues. But 71-year-old Billy Hart, a master percussionist who’s played with everyone from Wes Montgomery and Shirley Horn to Stan Getz and Herbie Hancock, remains a remarkably open-eared musician. That he meshes so well with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Ethan Iverson (of Bad Plus fame) and bassist Ben Street, all paragons of the contemporary jazz scene, comes as little surprise. Nor is it surprising that they respond so well to his — and each other’s — incisive contributions.
Hart is the group member with the strongest ties to ECM, whose über producer Manfred Eicher lends an invisible yet firmly guiding hand to the proceedings. All Our Reasons has an unrestricted, freely expressive feel, yet design and deliberate concision are abundantly present as well.
With compositional duties split between everyone except Street (who, curiously, never takes a solo), variety is also insured. Potent pieces, such as Hart’s “Imke’s March,” contrast beautifully with the contemplative settings of Iverson’s “Nostalgia For the Impossible” and Turner’s “Wasteland,” two of the album’s most outstanding tracks. Both of those songs highlight Turner’s poetic nature; his personality comes to the fore when he has more time for consideration.
Meanwhile, Iverson strikes the right balance between off-kilter braininess and straightforward verve, while Street is a model of alert support. Hart, for his part, is all heart, keeping the band’s needs always in mind, stepping out only when the music calls for it. In other words, he’s the perfect nominal leader.