First free concert of the year: Billy Hart and the Academy

Billy Hart and the Academy played at the University in Bucknell Hall on Sept. 12. The event was part of a larger chamber series at the University that gives young musicians an opportunity to watch and learn from masters who have perfected their musical craft.

Billy Hart and the Academy performed for the Jazz Chamber series on Sept. 12 in Bucknell Hall. The event was the first of many free concerts that will take place this year. The concert series aims to present “international modern masters and young visionaries to the campus and surrounding community” throughout the year. The program showcases many different types of jazz, from standards to Avant-Garde.


William “Billy” Hart began his career at the age of 17 playing gigs at Abart’s in Washington, D.C. Early on, he performed with soul artists like Otis Redding, Buck Hill, Shirley Horn, and the Montgomery Brothers. At the time, Washington, D.C. was a hub for up-and-coming musicians who were looking to take on a serious role in the music community. Later on, Hart toured with Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Eddie Harris, and Pharoah Sanders. He has also played in Herbie Hancock’s sextet, and as a freelance musician with Miles Davis. Hart has also played in a band known as the Cookers with Eddie Henderson, David Weiss, Craig Handy, George Cables, and Cecil McBee, all musicians who have gone on extensive tours and recorded CDs.


Billy Hart and the Academy includes Hart and three recent graduates of Oberlin Conservatory: Alex Cummings (alto saxophone), Jack Laskey (piano), and Dan Pappalardo (bass). Hart, who as been associated with Oberlin Conservatory since the early 1990s, has collaborated with Laskey and Pappalardo since they both were students. The group is unique because it grew out of Hart’s personal musical career and demanding role in music education. Hart is also an adjunct faculty member at the New England Conservatory of Music and Western Michigan University.


At the age of 77, Hart currently resides in Montclair, N.J. He continues to work and teaches steadily. He conducts private drum lessons through the The New School and New York University. Hart also contributes to the Stokes Forest Music Camp and the Dworp Summer Jazz Clinic in Belgium. Currently, he leads the Billy Hart Quartet with Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson, and Ben Street. They have released three albums through ECM Records.


Billy Hart and the Academy kick off the Jazz Chamber series at the University. Upcoming shows include John Salmon, Ben Allison and Think Free.

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