December 1997

Billy Higgins
Billy Higgins Quintet
Evidence Music

No question, drummer Billy Higgins is a legend. A telepathically mercurial time shifter/keeper with the ability to sweetly swing, Higgins has for over three decades graced the music of legendary masters Monk, Coltrane, Ornette and Dexter with his smiling spirit. Players and fans alike are well aware of Higgins' unique drum-ness, they know that his presence on either recording or live gig guarantees the music played will be slammin'. Veteran of literally hundreds of recordings, Higgins has recorded a mere handful of dates as a leader.

While the drummer's "new" date (recorded in '93) Billy Higgins Quintet may have an unassuming title, the music within is anything but. A consummate compendium of hard core swing tropes ("Jackie-ing"), bop moves ("Hot House"), Latin modes ("Seeker") and waves of tink-ticking cymbals ("Step Right Up To The Bottom"), Billy Higgins Quintet breathes new life into the arthritic body that is straightahead jazz. A synergistic collective of allstars-Harold Land, tenor; Oscar Brashear, trumpet; Cedar Walton, piano; David Williams, bass-this is a band that revels both in the science of improvisatory interaction and the art of performance execution. The hidden revelations of the quintet are West Coasters Land and Brashear. Long-underappreciated, the brass duo's emotionally incandescent soloing contributions (especially on "Churn") provide the harmonic rains for Higgins' rhythmic rainforest. And on the seventh day…

Originally published in December 1997

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