By Mike Shanley
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
As Director of Jazz Studies at Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music, Antonio Hart ensures that his students understand the legacy of their music. “They have to know the people that created it, and not just scales and harmony,” Hart says via email. “They have to know about Africa, the black church, civil rights, etc. I make them watch Eyes on the Prize, so they can see that the music they study comes from a condition of a people. Many come from different parts of the world, so they never got this kind of education.”
Along with history, it’s important that they discover themselves. “Finding your voice is not hard if you listen; trusting your voice is something different,” says the alto saxophonist, who has been at Queens for 20 years. “Today, students are stuck in the imitation stage, and I’m trying to get them to be the individual. You can’t do this without knowing the history, culture, and living life. You need a mentor and years of practice.”
ANTONIO HART SEXTET. 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $35. 412-320-4610
Hart believes in leading by example and he has the career to prove it. He emerged as a confident leader in the ’90s with a wide range of albums of his own and in groups like bassist Dave Holland’s Big Band and, prominently, with trumpeter Roy Hargrove, one of that era’s most innovative jazz voices. Hargrove’s sudden passing last year impacted the jazz community and Hart still finds it hard to sum up his friend’s legacy. “I will say the world never got to witness the full God given talent Roy had,” Hart says. “He was the one that only comes once in a generation. He was love, beauty, challenge, spirit, and most of all music. It didn’t have to be trumpet, but that’s what he chose. God gave him that communication we all dream of, and it is still in the air today.”
The Hart sextet that comes to town this week finds his alto in good company with trombonist Robin Eubanks and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix. “I’ve known Robin as my hero since my days at Berklee. He has been an important big brother for me musically, and spiritually. He’s a master musician, and I’m so blessed to have him on this gig. Freddie is a monster trumpeter and also a brother to me. It’s important to have amazing players in the group, but mainly, the family/spiritual connection is a must.” He adds that pianist Miki Yamanaka is a former student at the Copland School.