Billy Hart: Diff Customs
Billy Hart (drums)
Enchance (A&M CD 0818)
Hannibal Marvin Peterson (trumpet).
Composed by Oliver Lake.
Recorded: New York, February 24 or March 3, 1977
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
There are so many jazz records (and it seems like the number increases exponentially with each passing year), it's difficult to cut any from the pack and declare them among the very best. It's a subjective exercise, in the best of cases, yet a remarkable number of progressively-inclined musicians who came of age in the '80s agree that Billy Hart's 1977 album Enchance is one the classic jazz recordings.
"Diff Customs," the album's marvelous lead cut, makes a case for its own greatness. Composed by saxophonist Oliver Lake and performed by Lake on alto, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, the dual trumpets of Hannibal Marvin Peterson and Eddie Henderson, pianist Don Pullen, bassist Buster Williams and drummer/bandleader Billy Hart, the track exemplifies the virtues of free jazz: innovative compositional and improvisational techniques, inspired and distinctive soloists, and a highly simpatico group dynamic, among them. Lake's composition combines a spiky, non-tonal odd-time melody with episodes of collective improvisation and an evocative "Pithecanthropus Erectus"-like sustained intro. The musicians play the demanding tune with both brains and brawn, keeping things very together and intense while maintaining an engaging looseness. The horn players live up to their distinguished reputations, and the rhythm section burns supernova bright.
Seldom does a group of great players get together in an ad hoc formation and create timeless art, yet that's the case here. This music is very great.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey