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Drum master Billy Hart turned 80 at the end of November 2020, and the seven tunes on this very fine release were culled from two livestream concerts (sans audience) performed in his honor roughly a week later. That said, All Things Are is much more of a showcase for pianist Kevin Hays, who composed all but one of the pieces and who solos for the vast majority of the album.
Three of the originals are based on standards and all were previously recorded at least once by Hays. The album opens with two excellent originals: “New Day,” which meanders in delightfully unexpected ways, and “Elegia,” a profound meditation that includes a warm, melodic solo by the bassist Ben Street (superb throughout the sessions); these two pieces highlight the composite concert.
Another original, “Sweet Caroline” (blessedly not the Neil Diamond pop smash), has the most pronounced back beat and some inviting, blues-soaked harmonies but, ironically, drags at the end. “Unscrappulous,” a curiously reharmonized version of Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From the Apple,” is the shortest and most spritely of the bunch. The title track, based obviously on “All the Things You Are,” provides one of the few spotlights for Hart, who trades eights with Hays, and “Twilight,” based on “Stella by Starlight,” opens with an appealing bass line and solo, and then, like several of the tunes, drifts like a kayak on a sunlit, placid lake.
The only non-original, “For Heaven’s Sake” (also the title cut to Hays’ 2005 release), is the longest piece and captures another standout performance by the trio, which treats the standard with artful delicacy. As he does with every piece, Hart enriches the background with a variety of subtle textures borne from his many decades of playing with geniuses. His is the voice of wisdom. — Sascha Feinstein