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January/February 2007

Jimmy Heath Big Band
Turn Up the Heath
Planet Arts Recordings

Big-band albums by Jimmy Heath are rare. In his 60-year career there have been only a few. This album, recorded at sessions in 2004 and 2006, is his masterpiece as an arranger. You can hear the influence of his bebop roots—he played in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1949 and ’50—and his allegiance to clear-cut ensemble writing.

“Big P” and “Gemini” may be familiar from recordings by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet or Sextet—and “Project S” from a recording by Herbie Mann. But to hear them by a big band is to hear them in the composer’s full regalia of harmony and ensemble colors.

On the familiar standard “I’m Glad There’s You,” Heath’s tenor lead is warm and his double-time solo full of swinging melodic logic. On the Latin-oriented “Heritage Hum,” trombonist Slide Hampton boasts a lovely smoky tone and trumpeter Terrell Stafford dances in the upper register. The rhythm section—pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash—is tailor-made for this album.

As an arranger, Heath sticks to the basics of big-band writing: reeds-versus-brass polyphony, a solid rhythmic foundation and a sure sense of musical direction. He shows that there’s plenty of life left in the lessons of bebop.

Originally published in January/February 2007
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