Billy Hart was born in Washington D.C. on November 29, 1940.
His first steady gigs of note were with Shirley Horn and Buck Hill. In the 1960s he toured with Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Eddie Harris, and Pharoah Sanders. In 1970 he joined Herbie Hancocks Sextet, and after that band broke up in 1973 he joined first McCoy Tyner (two years) and then Stan Getz (four).
In the 1980s Billy Hart was a regular with many bands and leaders: Gerry Mulligan, Billy Harper, Clark Terry, The New York Jazz Quartet, the Jazztet, Mingus Dynasty and most extensively with Quest (with David Liebman, Ritchie Beirach, and Ron McClure). In the 1990s Hart was a member of the Charles Lloyd, Joe Lovano, and Tom Harrell groups, and in 1999 he began performing with the Three Tenors (Liebman, Lovano, and Michael Brecker). He is on about 500 hundred records as a sideman.
Billy Hart has recently played with jazz musicians Fred Hersch and Dave Liebman. In January 2011, he released the cd '68' a reference to his age and the number of recordings on which he has played. The cd 'Cast The First Stone', which Hart recorded with The Cookers, was released April 12, 2011.
Billy Hart's own records include:
Enchance (1977, A&M Horizon) with Dewey Redman, Marvin Hannibal Peterson, Eddie Henderson, Oliver Lake, Don Pullen, Buster Williams, and Dave Holland
Such Great Friends (1983, Strata East) with Billy Harper, Stanley Cowell, and Reggie Workman.
Oshumare (1985, Gramavision) with Steve Coleman, Branford Marsalis, Didier Lockwood, Kenny Kirkland, Bill Frisell, Kevin Eubanks, Mark Grey, and Dave Holland
Great Friends (1986, Evidence) with Sonny Fortune, Billy Harper, Stanley Cowell, and Reggie Workman
Rah (1987, Gramavision) with Dave Liebman, Kenny Kirkland, Eddie Henderson, Ralph Moore, Kevin Eubanks, Bill Frisell, Mark Grey, Eddie Gomez, Buster Williams, and Caris Visentin
Amethyst (1993, Arabesque) with John Stubblefield, Mark Feldman, David Fiuczynski, David Kikoski, Marc Copland, and Santi Debriano
Oceans of Time (1996, Arabesque) with John Stubblefield, Chris Potter, Mark Feldman, David Fiuczynski, David Kikoski, and Santi Debriano
Since the early 1990s Billy Hart has devoted a lot of time to teaching.
He spends considerable time at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, but he is also adjunct faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music and Western Michigan University.
He also teaches private lessons through The New School and New York University, and often contributes to the Stokes Forest Music Camp and the Dworp Summer Jazz Clinic in Belgium.
Billy Hart plays Pearl Drums and Zildjian cymbals.