Richie Hart was born on December 28, 1952, in Nyack, New York as Richie Hohenberger. He started playing the guitar at age 8 and studied with a local instructor named Mike Gauragnia. At the age of 14, he purchased Wes Montgomery’s album California Dreaming and when he heard the song Sundown, he knew that Jazz would be his life pursuit. He started performing professionally at the age of 14 and formed a quartet with pianist Daryl Rhodes, performing at local clubs and restaurants. At the age of 18, Richie started attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. During his 4 years at Berklee, he was fortunate enough to perform and study with Phil Wilson in the Thursday Night Dues Band, and Herb Pomeroy’s Concert Jazz Orchestra. This gave him the opportunity to perform in many concerts as well as television appearances. In his last year at Berklee, he received the Harris Stanton Award for Guitar Player of the Year.
1974 became a pivotal year for his musical growth. At this time, he met Jazz guitar legend, George Benson, and became a private student of his. Studying with George, changed his whole concept of Jazz as well as all other music. Richie studied with George from 1974 until the end of 1975. Richie had always been a teacher since the time he had been 17 years old. Upon graduating Berklee with all the performance experiences, he also graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Music Education. From 1975 to 1976, Richie taught guitar and played local gigs with his trio, which always consisted of Gary Mazzaroppi at his side. He and Gary were close friends from the first days at Berklee. In 1975, Richie started to put together a band consisting of original compositions in a more funky Jazz style. A few demo recordings helped land him more gigs in Jazz clubs as well as concert settings.
In 1976, Richie Hart met organist Lonnie Smith. When they first jammed together, it did not work out very well but Lonnie was very intrigued by Richie’s quartet demo recordings. A year later, Lonnie Smith contacted him to get together again. This time the playing gelled and they ended up in the studio recording two of Richie’s tunes – It’s Changed and When the Night is Right, for Lonnie’s album Funk Reaction. Both of which became a success on all the Jazz and Rhythm & Blues stations. Around this period, Richie also met trumpeter, Danny Stiles, and became part of Danny’s newly formed Big Band. The Big Band performed at many Jazz venues. They performed weekly at a Jazz club in Nyack called the Office. This band was made up of some of the best Jazz and studio musicians from New York. This was truly a learning and playing experience being around such great musicians. The band performed at such notable clubs as The Village Vanguard, as well as appearing on New York Jazz Radio WRVR (New York’s number 1 Jazz station at the time). In 1978, Richie got a call from flautist Hubert Laws and he ended up performing at Carneige Hall with Hubert Laws and Freddie Hubbard. 1979, Richie went into the studio to record his first album Just a Matter of Time. This album was not released until 1981. During the period of 1977 to 1980, besides Danny Stiles Big Band, he performed weekly with his own trio as well as his quartet, and worked also with organist Lonnie Smith. Richie’s album was released in 1981 at which time it received extensive airplay on all the major Jazz stations and Richie was doing concerts and/or clinics in colleges and Jazz clubs throughout the East coast. In 1981, Dr. Lonnie Smith also came back from Hawaii, and Richie became part of his regular trio, performing throughout all the famous Jazz clubs in Harlem and Newark, New Jersey. This trio gave Richie a chance to play with some of the greatest drummers such as Joe Dukes, Jimmy Lovelace, Eddie Gladden, and a young Marvin Smitty Smith, as well as many more. 1984, Richie once again formed his own quartet, and was working regularly but due to family matters for the next 3 – 4 years, mostly performed locally and in New York City. 1988, Richie went into the studio to record his album Remembering Wes, featuring the great Jazz artist’s Ron Carter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jimmy Cobb, Kenny Washington, and Gary Mazzaroppi. This album would be released in 1991 in Europe on Blue Flame records as well as in the U.S. on Compose Records.
In 1988, Richie became an Adjunct Faculty Member at Western Connecticut State University Music/Jazz Department where he taught courses in jazz history, theory, arranging, composition as well as jazz ensembles. He helped build the department and became Head of the Jazz Department from 1990-1994. During this time, he brought many of his friends and colleagues to perform concerts at the school, such as Ron Carter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Cobb, Stanley Cowell, Gary Mazzaroppi, Etta Jones, Nat Reeves, Houston Person, Art Taylor, Kenny Washington, Jay Hogart and Jimmy Hill. 1993-1994, Richie received his Masters Degree in Education from Lehman College in the Bronx. 1995 – 1997 Richie taught privately and performed as a sideman in Jazz groups throughout the New York New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware area. In 1997, Richie became an Associate Professor of Jazz Guitar at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches private lessons and labs on the music of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Kenny Burrell and other Jazz greats. 1996 until 2004, Richie did a great deal of work with promoter/trumpeter Mark Morganelli, performing in many venues including the Berkshire Jazz Festival 3 years running, Riverside Jazz Festival, Hudson Jazz Festival, Sunnyside Jazz Festival and many more. He also appeared at many venues in New York City, including The Blue Note. In 2000, Richie met bassist Rick Petrone and drummer Joe Corsello and formed the Richie Hart Trio. Over the span of 2000 – 2005, the trio recorded 3 records together, Timeless, Blues in the Alley andGreasy Street. Greasy Street was on the Jazz radio charts for 14 consecutive weeks. The trio played many concert venues such as Berkshire Jazz Festival (with singer Roberta Gamberini), Sunnyside Jazz Festival, Westport Jazz Festival (Levitt Pavilion), Katonah Jazz Festival, Hopper House Jazz Festival, Ossining Jazz Festival. The trio played such notable clubs as Boston’s Regatta Bar, New York’s Blue Note and Berklee Performance Center.
Richie is presently still teaching at Berklee College of Music and now he is working in a new duo with bassist extraordinary Linc Milliman. Their new release Quiet Conversations, was recorded and mixed by James Hart. Richie has also recorded a hip hop CD to be released entitled Old School New School, in which most of the tracks were produced by one of Richie’s former students Mike Feingold and drummer Alan Evans. Three of the tracks were produced and recorded byMaestro1ton- (Dave Vrooman).
Richie has performed in major venues including Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Village Vanguard, Blue Note as well as Boston’s prestigious Regatta Bar. He has performed in jazz festivals on the East coast as well as Europe and the Caribbean such as Berkshire Jazz Festival, Riverside Jazz Festival, Sunnyside Jazz Festival, Bermuda Jazz Festival, Murcia Jazz Festival, Valencia Jazz Festival and Jamaican Jazz Festival. He has performed with some of the biggest names in jazz including Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Don Patterson, Jack McDuff, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Houston Person, Etta Jones, just to name a few.
Richie has 4 CD’s on the market under his name including Remembering Wes (Blue Flame),Timeless, Blues in the Alley and Greasy Street ( Zoho Records) as well as his first recording Just a Matter of Time (Carat). He currently has 2 new CD’s to be released, Quiet Conversations and Old School New School. He can also be heard on Lonnie Smith’s Aphrodisiac Album on the tunes It’s Changed and Just a Matter of Time (incorrectly crediting George Benson), on Peter Tomlinson’s album Timeless Mark Morganeli’s album My Romance and Nanette Natale Hi Fly Baby.
Over the years, Richie has transcribed over 150 Wes Montgomery solos. He has devoted the last 40 some odd years to the music of Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Kenny Burrell as well as many other Jazz influences. He truly has an in-depth knowledge of the guitar players mentioned.