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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.