This group began in Champaign Illinois in the mid-1990s as a straight-ahead jazz group featuring vibraphonist Kevin Hart, pianist Tim Green, bassist Tim Brickner, and drummer Jeff Magby. Hart's fascination with the Latin Jazz genre began as a graduate student in Iowa under the musical influence of Robert Washut, and eventually took form with this group. With the addition of Dan Llano on congas, the group began exploring the Latin jazz sounds of Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, and Clare Fisher, eventually leading the band to it's own unique sound, with fresh arrangements and originals. Kevin 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. Hart'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. 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.
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