Obwohl die späten Wes-Montgomery-Alben vor allem mit Grady Tate oder Jimmy Cobb an den Drums eingespielt wurden, war Billy Hart von 1966 bis 1968 fester Bestandteil von Wes‘ Band. Bereits 1961 war Hart Schlagzeuger der Montgomery Brothers, dokumentiert auf dem Album „Live at Jorgies“. Später, als er mit seiner Musik großen kommerziellen Erfolg hatte, stellt Wes ihn dann sogar fest ein – wie Billy Hart bereits vor ein paar Jahren in einem wirklich bemerkenswerten Gespräch erzählt. Im Interview mit Ethan Iverson berichtet Hart, wie Wes ihm näherbrachte, dass er mit seinem Spiel nicht zufrieden war. Außerdem erfahren wir, dass Jimmy Cobb Wes Lieblingsschlagzeuger war und Billy Hart am Ende einer der Sargträger des Gitarristen war. Die besten Passagen aus dem Interview nach dem Break:
A lot of us don’t realize you did serious road time with both Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery.
I was with Wes immediately after Jimmy, and not for that long — maybe for about a year and a half or two years. Wes was coming out of the same concept. Identical Creed Taylor concept on Verve and A&M.
I buried Wes. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. I might still be with Wes Montgomery today because he put me on salary. I got paid every week whether we worked or not. He had a hand-drummer in the band, which meant he was already open or aware of what was to come, right? All this was pre-fusion fusion music, as I look at it now. Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, and Eddie Harris. After Wes passed, I went with Eddie until I didn’t want to do it any more (I got tired of the gig).
Tell me about Wes and the ride cymbal beat.
Right! It was very, very helpful. As helpful as it was humiliating.
Basically, what he wanted was just what I didn’t have: more of a clear understanding, a clear direction of keeping time. I couldn’t do it. So Wes gave me a lesson that showed me that I didn’t have a clear cymbal beat. Which is how I learned how to play.
What did Wes tell you? He certainly didn’t say, “Billy, could you play a clearer cymbal beat?”
Wes said to me, “Billy, what’s that you’re doin’ with your cymbal?”
And I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Wes.”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
“Wes, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“OK , Billy, let me put it this way: the shit ain’t laying.”
Now, how am I supposed to know what that means? Well, of course I did know what it meant, you know what it means … how do you put that in words? “It’s not perfectly in sync?” or “It’s not causing the kind of euphoria that we refer to as swinging or grooving?” Well, anyway, the way he put it was: “The shit ain’t laying.”
Did he just tell you that just once?
No, no. Being a younger person, I wasn’t going to accept it, so I said, “OK, well, he means he wants me to play that old-fashioned, old-style-ass cymbal beat. If he wants it, fuck it, I’ll do that, but I still have my other three limbs. With my left hand and right foot I’ll still help the evolution of the planet in a positive way, without this buffoon imposing his own old-fashioned-ass ways. So, two or three months later, he says to me, “Billy, what’s that you’re doing with your left hand?” And we went through the same thing again.
With all the limbs, I suppose.
Well, I don’t think we had to deal with the high-hat. But it definitely went down with the snare drum and the bass-drum.
By the time I get to Wes, I’ve had three and a half years to work on all of this. Wes, you know, his concept of a very fucking advanced drummer was Jimmy Cobb.
Now, Jimmy’s great – one of the greatest. He’s also one of my mentors. But Jimmy keeps time so that he STARES at his [right] hand and cymbal as he plays. It’s like a computer graph, where you make sure everything is in sync. Suffice to say, I didn’t quite play like that! And that was Wes’ favorite drummer, right? So there was a WIDE space between us … and I had to get it together. In one club in San Francisco the bandstand was next to the wall, and the wall was next to this glass painting that acted like a mirror. So I could sit there, and watch myself play … check out my posture. Sitting there watching myself, that’s how I learned to play Wes’ beat.
Wes never mentioned Jimmy Cobb to me, which would have been a simple thing to do, but maybe he didn’t realize Jimmy was from Washington and that I knew Jimmy’s playing. Whatever, he just said it wasn’t laying.
What about the snare and bass drum?
The snare drum, (as I understand it) relates to the treble clef of any ensemble. (The bass drum relates more to the bass clef.) That means your snare drum could be the trumpet section of a big band. It implies a certain tradition of arranging, whether it’s Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Thad Jones: it’s how you put that in the mix. That’s what Wes needed, that tradition.