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Biography (short)            Kevin Hart Jazz on Facebook Kevin Hart Jazz on Pandora Kevin Hart Jazz videos on YouTube          

Jazz vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hart and his various groups have explored many avenues of jazz and have performed at numerous venues, festivals, and concerts events throughout the Midwest since 1993. Highlights include the Iowa City Jazz Festival, Viva Chicago, Springfield Jazz Festival, Peoria Jazz Heritage Fest, Rootabaga Jazz Fest, Central Illinois Jazz Society Concerts, Peoria RiverFront CEFCU Stage Concert Series, Carl Sandburg College Concert Series, Sounds of the Normal Amphitheater Concert Series, ISU Concerts on the Quad, Sounds of Summer (Urbana), and many more.

Kevin’s recordings as a bandleader include his Latin-flavored Corazón and stylistically eclectic The Road to Everywhere, which was chosen as a recommended release in 2005 by Laura Kennedy at WGLT 89.1 FM. Both feature the playing and writing talents of some of the finest musicians in Central Illinois, and have received much airplay in Illinois and beyond.

As a sideman, Kevin has recorded and performed with Bob Washut, David Hoffman, Don Heitler, Jane Hartman, the Beatniks, Jake Hertzog, Joe Metzka, and Sam Crain, and has worked with many other great Illinois musicians including Bobby Broom, Orbert Davis, Chris Foreman, Zach Broch, Ron Bridgewater, and Jeff Helgesen. Kevin has also played with renowned artists who have passed through the region including Jack McDuff, Steve Turre, Ernie Watts, Chris Vadala, Henry Butler, Jerry Bergonzi, Terell Stafford, and Rufus Reid.

During his college years, Kevin received a Downbeat student award, performed in a Downbeat award-winning jazz band, won numerous outstanding performer awards at various jazz festivals including Notre Dame, and received an honorable mention in a Modern Drummer Neil Peart drum giveaway. Kevin also performed with many legendary jazz musicians during this time including Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Bob Berg, Bobby Shew, and Louis Bellson.

Hart continues to be very active with his current band Kevin Hart & the Vibe Tribe, his piano-based Kevin Hart Trio, and as a sideman with various regional artists. He is also currently on the music faculty at Illinois State University, Knox College, and Parkland College.

Biography (long)

Kevin Hart was born into a musical family in Bourbonnais Illinois and began playing his father’s drums to jazz records at an early age. His mother, a church organist, enrolled him in piano lessons in third grade, and he continued to experiment with jazz piano throughout high school. An older sister purchased a vibraphone, and Kevin began imitating the sounds of Lionel Hampton. At 15, Hart began drumming with established local musicians, while experimenting on various instruments throughout high school.

In the mid 1980s, Hart was encouraged to attend Eastern Illinois University by renowned percussion instructor Johnny Lane. As a music student there, Hart played drums, vibes, and piano in various groups. While playing drums in the jazz ensemble, Kevin and his fellow musicians played with jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, and Rufus Reid. He won a Downbeat Student award in 1990, performed in a Downbeat award winning jazz band, was recognized as an outstanding performer at various jazz festivals including Notre Dame, and received an honorable mention in a Modern Drummer Neil Peart drum giveaway.

Upon accepting a teaching assistantship at the University of Northern Iowa, Hart began graduate school, working closely under the guidance and influence of pianist, arranger, composer, and educator Bob Washut. Kevin’s interest in classic and fusion jazz expanded to include more modern jazz as well as Latin jazz. He began performing more extensively on vibes with such Iowans as Bob Dunn and Mark Urness, as well as playing drums with the jazz ensemble backing various guest artists, most notably Bob Berg.

With his Masters degree completed, Hart accepted a teaching assistantship at the University of Illinois and began working on his Doctorate. While at UI, he performed with more jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, and Ed Thigpen. Kevin’s interest in piano continued to grow while studying with Chicago-based pianist Mike Kocour, and performing with local piano legend Don Heitler.

Kevin organized his own vibe-based groups and began performing at numerous venues, festivals, and concerts throughout the state while at the same time working with many notable regional musicians such as Ron Bridgewater, John Scott, Brian Wilke, Jeff Helgesen, Rachael Lee, Gaile Thomas, Jane Hartman, Dave Dreyer, Dave Hoffman, Sam Crain, and Mike Nellas.

In the past few years, Hart has performed with jazz greats who have passed through the territory including Jack McDuff, Steve Turre, Ernie Watts, Chris Vadala, Henry Butler, Jerry Bergonzi, Terrell Stafford, Rufus Reid, and Jeff Newell. He has also performed with Chicago-based musicians Eric Schneider, Orbert Davis, Bobby Broom, and Zach Brock.

Notable Midwest performances with his own groups and other artists include the Iowa City Jazz Festival, Viva Chicago, South Shore Jazz Festival, Springfield Jazz Festival, Peoria Jazz Heritage Festival, Rootabaga Jazz Festival, Central Illinois Jazz Society Concerts, Peoria RiverFront CEFCU Stage Concert Series, Carl Sandburg College Concert Series, Sounds of the Normal Amphitheater Concert Series, Music under the Stars Concert Series, ISU Concerts on the Quad, Urbana’s Sounds of Summer, Champaign-Urbana Jazz and Blues Blowout, WEFT Fest, Krannert Summer Swing, Bloomington Pub Crawl, Manito Art, Wine & Jazz fest, and many more.

Kevin’s stylistically eclectic The Road to Everywhere CD was chosen as a 2005 recommended release by WGLT in Central Illinois. Laura Kennedy from WGLT says, “Kevin Hart is a masterful musician—a generous artist with style, class and a forever sense of fun. His originals on The Road to Everywhere sparkle with innovation and cosmopolitan charm and as Axel F demonstrates, his choice of cover material reveals imagination and vision.” His Latin-flavored Corazón was chosen as a 2010 top ten pick by KXLU in Los Angeles, as mentioned in Latin Beat magazine in February of 2011. Both recordings feature the playing and writing talents of some of the finest musicians in Central Illinois and have received airplay across the country.

Hart continues to be very active with his current band Kevin Hart & the Vibe Tribe, his piano-based Kevin Hart Trio, and as a sideman with various regional artists. He is also currently on the music faculty at Illinois State University, Knox College, and Parkland College.