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Billy Higgins: Transcendent Soul

Billy Higgins

There was a buzz in the air at Avery Fisher Hall a year ago last July, a kind of mass tingle of expectation that I have only witnessed twice before-once at Miles Davis’ celebrated ‘comeback’ gig at that same hall back in 1981 and again involving Miles when he shocked the crowds at Montreux in 1991 by playing the music of Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess and Sketches of Spain with the combined George Gruntz-Gil Evans big band conducted by Quincy Jones. This time, the buzz was for Ornette Coleman who was reuniting with his original bandmates Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins.

Every jaded critic in town was waiting breathlessly for this gig, like anxious children at Christmas time waiting on line at Macy’s to sit on Santa’s lap. Some had to pinch themselves to make sure they weren’t just dreaming. And these three jazz heroes (sans their late comrade Don Cherry) delivered, far exceeding everyone’s expectations.

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