All Our Reasons
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The quartet heard here was formed in 2003, and originally billed as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. When Billy Hart asked if it could be his band for a gig in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, the other members unanimously voted to give it him permanently. As the Billy Hart Quartet, the four musicians have continued to play a number of dates each year, often at New York's Village Vanguard. In 2005 the group recorded a well-received debut album for hard-bop label High Note. Since then, as Ethan Iverson notes, the music has become more free and spacious, qualities that fit well with ECM's priorities. "All Our Reasons" was recorded in June 2011 at New York's Avatar Studios, with Manfred Eicher producing.
About the Artist
Mark Turner, who found his own style after exhaustive study of the musical methodologies of Coltrane and Marsh, has become one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation. After recording leader dates (for Warner Brothers and Criss-Cross), Turner co-founded the trio Fly with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard in 2004 and has continued to tour widely with the group.
Ethan Iverson is well-known as a member of "avant-garde populist" group The Bad Plus, praised by New York magazine for its "alchemist's blend of earnestness and wit". He has also played with Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman, Tim Berne, Paul Motian and others. Iverson writes about music and its contexts on his blog Do The Math.
Ben Street studied bass with Dave Holland and Miroslav Vitous. He has performed and toured with Danilo Perez, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Roswell Rudd, Sam Rivers, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, David Sanchez, James Moody, Frank Foster, Clark Terry, Junior Cook, and others.
Billy Hart's rich history includes stints with Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and many others. A vast discography incorporates sessions with Miles Davis for "On The Corner" and "Big Fun".
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Billy Hart's (and company) reasons are worth considering. All of them. Git to it. Twenty seven hundred stars.
Each member of this quartet is integral to the finished sound; to replace any one of them would change the lay of the land considerably. Tenorist Mark Turner has a sound so darkly burnished it has become unmistakable. Turner emerged as a leader of his own groups at a young age. A disc for CrissCross was followed by a Warner Bros. contract that yielded several discs. It has been a number of years since his last effort as a leader, but Turner has been anything but idle. His sideman work seems to appear everywhere and his talents have him in all types of situations, from standards dates to navigating the thorny music of altoist David Binney, where Turner frequently completes the front line. Despite once having a major label contract the tenorist somehow managed to escape the whole "Young Lion" hoopla often heaped on jazz twenty-somethings. His quiet, almost reticent, demeanor perfectly matches his unassumingly lovely tone.
Pianist Ethan Iverson is himself no stranger to the major labels, his trio The Bad Plus having issued a string of releases on Columbia, and lately, EmArcy. Away from TBP, Iverson proves to be a thoughtful, incisive soloist and sensitive comper. His work on All Our Reasons proves to be surprisingly quiet, and a little less in evidence than on the previous Hart quartet date.
Bassist Ben Street has become a first call player in all sorts of situations on the New York jazz scene. He possesses a big, natural-sounding, woody tone, has unerring intonation, and can hold down the soloist spot with deft and intelligent improvising.
The disc's longest piece, Hart's "Song For Balkis" is up front, beginning quietly with the leader's mallets and a stately recitation of the theme by the quartet. Turner is the first soloist, initially going with just bass and drums. It doesn't take long for things to come to a beautiful simmer, and when Iverson finds a point of entry to begin comping and set up for his own solo around the seven minute mark it spurs Turner on even further, to end his own turn with several wry references to the head. The pianist's own solo, while a bit shorter, is no less intelligent and quickly turns climactic.
The rest of the material is handled no less thoughtfully. A handful of tributes, Iverson's "Ohnedaruth" for its namesake John Coltrane, Turner's "Nigeria", which turns Sonny Rollins' "Airegin" inside out again with a smart piano quote from the original at its close, and the leader's "Imke's March" for the drummer's daughter demonstrate a solid framework of reverence.
The switch in labels has served this group well as its overall sound has evolved. There's much more open space in the music now, and the improvised sections are edging toward more free terrain. Manfred Eicher and ECM's usual attention to detail is evident, as always. Ethan Iverson, for example, was allowed his choice between several pianos, a luxury one doesn't often run into on a jazz recording date. Barely three months into 2012 All Our Reasons is already being talked about roundly as a choice for one of the year's best. And with good reason. Beautiful without being precious, always swinging and always intelligent, All Our Reasons is a highlight for all the members of this quartet.
(Excerpt from a longer review by Craig Nixon, with photos, at AcousticLevitation dot org)