Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jazz legend Jimmy Heath: a giant, a giant, a giant ....

Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw invites ....
He's a giant, a giant, a giant, a giant .... He's a hell of an arranger-composer and just a hell of a nice guy, and I love him dearly (quote: James Moody)
Jimmy Heath in the Porgy en Bess Jazz Club (Terneuzen - The Netherlands)
Hans Koert

Jazzlegende Jimmy Heath in Porgy en Bess (Nederlands) | Jazz legend Jimmy Heath: a giant, a giant, a giant .... (English)

Promise is debt ... A year ago Henk Meutgeert, the leader of the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw with Tom Harrell as its guest player promised to return to the Porgy en Bess Jazz Club in Terneuzen, in the southwest part of The Netherlands ...... on the first of April, 2012.  The first of April?  Isn't that All Fools' Day? Sure, but not this time .... The Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw played a concert at the small cosy Porgy en Bess Jazz Club Sunday afternoon, the first of April 2012. A memorable concert, especially due to its guest player, the legendary tenor sax player Jimmy Heath, 85 years young, who impressed with his enthusiasm and hearty laugh.
Jimmy Heath ( in Porgy en Bess ) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
 Jimmy Heath was born in Philadelphia, October 1926 in a musical family.  With his two brothers Percy and Al, nicknamed Tootie, they became  known during the 1970s as the Heath Brothers Jimmy started his career together with his bass playing brother Percy in the Howard McGhee Sextet, in which he debuted on Savoy records February 1948. During this period he founded his first big band, which featured Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant, John Coltrane and Benny Golson, (who visited the Porgy en Bess jazz club in April 1999 with Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Kengo Nakamura double bass and Neil Smith drums) ........., but as far as I know these late 1940s big band sessions were never recorded. And it is said, that also Charlie Parker and Max Roach joined one of its concerts.
John Marshall ( in Porgy en Bess) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, 18 members, opened the first set with its swinging opener Two Brothers, written by Simon Rigter, with a great solo by Joris Roelofs on clarinet, followed by the tune Houston Street Beat, written and played by the US trumpet player John Marshall, who was added to the trumpet section. John Marshall performed several times at the Porgy en Bess Jazz Club, with Ferdinand Povel in February 2008 and  recently, last November. Jimmy Heath, a brittle old man in his 80s, but playing like a vigorous youngster opened his part of the concert with a solo in his composition Sleeves, assisted by Ruud Breuls on trumpet and bass player Frans Van Geest.
Jorg Kaaij ( in Porgy en Bess ) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The tunes selected by Jimmy Heath were all own composition, like Sound for Sore Ears (with Jorg Kaaij on alto saxophone) and a tribute to Duke Ellington's right-hand man in composing Billy Strayhorn, entitled Ellington's Stray Horn with a great solo by The Boss, as Benny Golson used to call his one year older pal from Philadelphia with respect ........ With Project S, which was recorded several times by Jimmy, with groups like the Heath Brothers (1979) and recently with his Jimmy Heath Big Band, closed the first set. Although Jimmy didn’t made a secret of the original meaning of the letter S in the tune, which was Sex, for him the S mend Swing .... I'm too old for that now, but it means to me Swing ......  Peter Beets, however, the piano player active in this orchestra from the very first beginning, showed that he could play a great stride piano solo, so for me, this time, the letter refered to Stride.  
Jimmy Heath ( in Porgy en Bess - 1 april 2012) (foto: Hans Koert)
Jimmy Heath started his career in music on alto saxophone, which brought him his nick name Little Bird, which he didn't like, but he became known as a tenor sax player and as an arranger and composers of great tunes like C.T.A. I didn't bring that, this time - sorry for that - he told me during the break, but I will play Gingerbread Boy as the final tune of the evening. During the break he signed my beloved classic Blue Note albums with the 1953 J. J. Johnson Sextet recordings from 1953, the so-called The Eminent albums and my 1953 Blue Note Miles Davis album (volume 2) with Miles Davis, Jay Jay, Gil Coggins, Art Blakey and his brother Percy ( one of the tunes is actually the before mentioned composition C.T.A.). I remember that recording session very well. It wasn't a studio band, he corrected me: We actually played in clubs with that band .... Did you ever read my biography? It's all on it. Try to find yourself a copy ( I Walked with Giants - Jimmy Heath - Joseph McLaren). He signed the Miles Davis Blue Note album with the words: Forever Miles ........ What an inspiring man, an icon himself, who played with all those other legends of jazz: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Benny Golson, Dave Brubeck and Kenny Dorham ( to list some). Thanks for ears ...... he said with all due respect, when we shook hands .....
Jimmy Heath ( 1960) ( source: Rhythme, Maandblad voor Jazz-, Dans- en Amusementsmuziek) ( Nº 138) ( March 1961) ( Hans Koert archive)
Mid 1950s he was imprisoned, due to drugs offences, like so many of his colleagues. Men dient zich te herinneren, dat het een erg onzekere tijd was (Times were very tough), Jimmy explained in a Down Beat article, quoted (in Dutch) at the Rhythme magazine: Het was moeilijk om aan werk te komen en bovendien werd onze muzieek (sic) niet geaksepteerd (sic) ( We had no work and our music wasn't accepted). Iemand stelde toen voor om verdovende middelen te gaan gebruiken .... iedereen deed dat. Je zou je er beter door gaan voelen en zo. Ik aksepteerde (sic), en daarmee was ik verkocht. (Drugs should help you to accept that and to feel well, they said and so I did .....) After years in jail, he returned to the jazz scene, clean, better then ever ........  The Dutch jazz magazine Rhytme ( March 1961) praises the come back of the 34 years old Jimmy Heath. ... In de snel wisselende wereld van de Jazz mag het zeldzaam genoemd worden, dat een musikus (sic) een jaar of vijf van het toneel verdwijnt en dan terugkeert zonder iets van zijn status verloren te hebben en bovendien volledig afgestemd blijkt te zijn op de nieuwste verworvenheden. ( It's rather uncommon that in the ever changing world of Jazz, a musician, who drops out of the picture for some years, returns, but still respected and even playing the continuous developing music without any problems. )
Jimmy Heath ( in Porgy en Bess ) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Jimmy Heath developed into a sought after musician and during the 1970s he and his brother Percy became known as the Heath Brothers. His core business was composing and arranging, but, after almost 65 years in showbiz he's still active as a musician. During the last decade he recorded with his own Big Band, but also as a guest in bands like the New York Gerald Wilson Orchestra (2003), the band of Antonio Hart (2003), The Dizzy Gillespy All-Star Big Band (2005), The Diego Urcola Orchestra (2005), Now's The Time Big Band (2008) and, last but not least, the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw which belongs, according to Henk Meutgeert, its leader, to the four best big bands of the world.
Bert Boeren ( in Porgy en Bess) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The second set opened with a great piano intro by Peter Beets playing the tune Imagination and the concert continued with a Jimmy Heath composition Gemini. Jimmy Heath, Martijn Van Iterson, Bert Boeren and John Marshall played some great solo's in this tune.
Sjoerd Dijkhuizen ( in Porgy en Bess ) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

 Next number was Time and the Place, a tune Jimmy recorded in 1967 with the Art Farmer Quintet for the album of the same name. Jimmy impressed in one of the most fascinating compositions of the concert, the tune Voice of the Saxophone, a tribute to Coleman Hawkins and part of the great 1975 Afro-American Suite of Evolution, in which Jimmy showed what a great saxophone player he is, despite his ripe old age. For the members of the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, most young educated jazz musicians, this concert was very special, playing which such an icon. Some of them had brought their photo camera to record this historic event.
Joris Roelofs ( in Porgy en Bess) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The final tune was Jimmy's Gingerbread Boy, a tribute to Jimmy and Mona's son (Mona, his wife for years, joined Jimmy at this tour), who passed away in his 40s, in which the members of the orchestra seized the opportunity to excel - a final chord of a memorable concert by one of the last icons in jazz, composer, arranger and saxophone player Jimmy Heath, accompanied by one of the best big bands of the world, the Dutch Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, directed by Henk Meutgeert
Part of the reeds section. ( f.l.t.r.: Joris Roelofs and Jorg Kaaij on flutes + Juan Martinez ( baritone sax) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
And if you might have planned a trip to this part of the world, spring 2013, try to join its next concert in this club, scheduled the 7th of April 2013: The Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in Porgy en Bess Jazz Club in Terneuzen (The Netherlands) with, I'm sure, another inspiring guest player.

Hans Koert
Twitter: #keepitswinging

A memorable concert - saxophone player Jimmy Heath joined the Dutch Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, one of the best big bands of the world, in a concert at the famous small cosy jazz club Porgy en Bess in Terneuzen( The Netherlands). A memorable concert, not only because of the great compositions that were selected, but also because of its guest saxophone player and composer of all those tunes, Jimmy Heath, who joined, 85 years young, the big band at two boiling sets .... Jimmy Heath, one of the last living, stil active, icons of jazz, a contemporary and colleague of legends like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, signed my beloved Miles Davis 1953 Blue Note albums, with the words Miles for ever. Thanks for history ... Jimmy! Keep (it) Swinging loves this kind of inspiring musicians and loves to share it with the friends of the Keep Swinging blog. Enjoy its free monthly newsletter:

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