Originally published in Earshot Jazz December 2014
“Make It Go.” Bassist Rene Hart’s online profile phrase fits his role as heartbeat of a band. Hart’s levity appears in his description of musical preferences as if in a dating service – “I like strong melodies and long walks on a modal vamp.” I don’t know this guy yet but I bet I will like his music.
Hart hails from Brooklyn these days, but his early schooling was in Seattle. Trumpeter Floyd Standifer taught him Humanities at the Northwest School back in the 1980’s. He attended Berklee College of Music in 1989 and two years later moved to New York. Over the last few years he has returned to Seattle to visit family and perform two or three times a year. His most recent trip was a tour with saxophonist Jessica Lurie. This time around, Hart will perform at the Royal Room 8:00pm December 27th with local collaborators Skerik on saxophone, Dawn Clement on keyboards, and D'vonne Lewis on drums.
The repertoire will come from Hart’s latest project, the Honey Ear Trio. This collective threesome includes drummer Allison Miller and saxophonist Eric Lawrence. Miller arrived in New York at the same time as Hart. They met at the Bop Juice jam session at Visiones run by saxophonist Ralph Lalama and drummer Clifford Barbaro. Later they teamed up with Lawrence, son of the saxophonist/educator Arnie Lawrence.
In Seattle, Hart plans to play “Luminesque,” which he described to me over the phone as his ode to optimism, and “High Water” from Honey Ear’s recent recording. The set will also include old folk tunes like “The Water is Wide” and Pete Seeger tunes. Hart worked with eclectic composer David Amram who introduced him to Seeger. “David Amram has a great message about being yourself and not letting the corporate world influence you.” Hart explained to me that Amram walked away from a giant contract after successfully scoring the soundtrack to the 1962 film Manchurian Candidate.
Hart continues to define his own voice on bass. At a jazz recording session with Hipmotism, a band with slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein and drummer Allison Miller, he began experimenting with how his bass sounded during playback by altering it with software effects. Intrigued, he built his own rig of controllers (an iPod Touch and Killamix DJ knobs), attached them to his bass, added a foot pedal and connected inputs to his laptop. Often at first, the configuration failed because the laptop overheated on stage. Over time, tweaks have improved its reliability so Hart can use effects when he’s inspired by a sound and wants to follow where it might lead. Look for these electronic explorations on his Seattle gig.
When Wayne Horvitz took his Royal Room Collective Ensemble to The Stone in New York last May, Hart and Horvitz paired up for some duos. Now, Hart comes to Horvitz’s venue to have a good time and fulfill his excitement about the chemistry of this new assembly of artists.