JIMMY HEATH SEXTET: THE THUMPER
Nat Adderley (cnt) Curtis Fuller (tb) Jimmy Heath (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Paul Chambers (b) Albert Heath (drs)
A-3 & B-4: J. Heath and rhythm section only
NYC; September, 1959
For Minor Only (4:48) (Jimmy Heath)
Who Needs It? (5:35) (Wynton Kelly)
Don’t You Know I Care (4:57) (Russell – Ellington)
Two Tees (4:14) (Jimmy Heath)
The Thumper (4:01) (Jimmy Heath)
Newkeep (4:06) (Jimmy Heath)
For All We Know (4:30) (Lewis – Coots)
I Can Make You Love Me (3:27) (Russell – DeRose)
Nice People (3:52) (Jimmy Heath)
It is possible that there is something in the climate of Philadelphia that is particularly conducive to the stimulation and nourishing of jazz talent – with special emphasis on the growth of tenor saxophone players?
For, in addition to a large general roster of extremely able musicians who have emerged from the City of Brotherly Love in recent years (names like Philly Joe Jones, Percy Heath, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons come quickly to mind), there have fairly recently appeared such mightly impressive Philadelphia-raised tenor men as John Coltrane and Benny Golson. And it is about as certain as anything can be in the unpredictable world of jazz that this first album by Philadelphian JIMMY HEATH will very quickly add another name to the list of today’s foremost tenor saxes.
It should be immediately evident form this LP that Jimmy possesses a large handful of attributes of major jazz value: he has a full, deep, compelling sound and a fertile imagination; his playing really swings; and he is a jazz composer of considerable vigor and freshness. And, although his will undoubtedly be a new name to many, Heath is also a thoroughly experienced musician, who ahs been associated with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and may other headliners. He carries further credentials in his name, being the younger brother of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Percy Heath, one of the very finest of modern bassists, and the older brother of drummer Albert Heath – who makes his own important contribution as part of the strong group supporting Jimmy here.
Since this is a time in which words like “funky” and “soul” seem to be consistently over-used, it may be dangerous to ring them into a description of the mood and sound created by Jimmy Heath. But his playing, and quite a few of the tunes selected for this record (particularly his own The Thumper and For Minors Only, and the Wynton Kelly blues, Who Needs It?) seem to demand the use of precisely those words. It is important, therefore, to distinguish between the genuine article and the excess of some who appear to think that anything goes as long as it seems to sound blues-y and church-y. The difference lies in the fact that musicians like Heath and his colleagues here play with “soul” simply because that’s the way they feel this music, the way they always have. Jimmy, having been away form the main jazz scene for some time prior to the Summer of 1959, had expressed concern that he might not be fully “up to date.” Quite to the contrary, it would seem that this has enabled him to avoid some of the recent by-ways and turnings and to remain in touch with fundamentals. I think you’ll find further confirmation of the true soul-fullness of Jimmy Heath in the way he approaches a ballad. Neither he sextet arrangement of For all We Know nor Duke Ellington’s Don’t You Know I Care (played with just rhythm0section backing) is treated in a “pretty” or maudlin way. Both are attacked with real passion and great depth.
Working closely with Jimmy to produce this effect is an extremely impressive group. Cornetist NAT ADDERLEY was operating with the added emotional advantage of having just been re-united with his brother Cannonball in an exciting new band; CURTIS FULLER, outstanding among young trombonists, has been featured since mid-1959 with the Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet; both WYNTON KELLY and PAUL CHAMBERS are key members of the Miles Davis group; ALBERT HEATH, regularly J. J. Johnson’s drummer, has of course special incentive on this album. (Incidentally, the title of one original here, Two Tees, is derived from Albert’s nickname, “Tootie.” And while on the subject, note that Newkeep is taken from the Heath’s mother’s version of the last name of this writer.)
Born in October, 1926 (in Philadelphia, of course), Jimmy was the first of the Heath brothers to rake up music. He first played alto in his high school days, and didn’t switch to tenor sax until 1951. He notes two reasons for that move: there seemed more demand in bands for tenor players; and he was finding the affectionate nickname of “Little Bird,” which fellow musicians had given him as a compliment, to be more in the nature of a drawback. Thus Jimmy can be listed (along with Coltrane and many others) as among those who moved from alto to tenor because they felt – in one way or another – he shadow of Charlie Parker across their path. Eventually, though, Heath stayed with tenor for the best of reasons; he found he preferred it!
One of Jimmy’s first regular jobs was with the Nat Towles band, working out of Omaha, in 1945-46. He returned to Philadelphia to help his brother Percy, who had by this time become interested in music, with his studies. The two studied, practiced and then worked together, and it was also at this time that Jimmy got his first opportunity to write and arrange – for a local big band he formed, with sidemen including Coltrane and Golson. In 1948, both Jimmy and Percy toured this country and Europe with trumpeter Howard McGhee; the following year both went over to Dizzy Gillespie for a two-year stay, after which they toured extensively with a “Symphony Sid” all-star group (Miles Davis, J. J. Johnson, Milt Jackson, Kenny Clarke). Jimmy has also so-led a group with Kenny Dorham; and in the Summer of 1959, when Miles was briefly without the services of Coltrane, he quickly called for Heath.
In the recent past, Jimmy Heath tunes have been featured and recorded by Miles, Dizzy and Chat Baker, and he is now concentrating to an event greater degree on writing. Two of his compositions appear on Riverside on the Blue Mitchell album which also marked Jimmy’s playing debut on the label –
Blue Soul: BLUE MITCHELL Sextet; with Jimmy Heath, Curtis Fuller, Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-209)
Kelly and Adderley lead groups of their own on –
Branching Out: NAT ADDERLEY, with Johnny Griffin, ‘The Three Sounds’ (RLP 12-285)
Much Brass: NAT ADDERLEY Sextet; with Wynton Kelly, Slide Hampton (RLP 12-301)
WYNTON KELLY, with Kenny Burrell (RLP 12-254)
Kelly Blue: WYNTON KELLY Trio and Sextet; with Nat Adderley, Benny Golson (RLP 12-298)
Nat Adderley is also featured with his brother’s sensation band on –
The CANNONBALL ADDERLEY Quintet in San Francisco (RLP 12-311)
This Jimmy Heath album is also in a Stereo version, on RLP 1160.
Cover designed and produced by PAUL BACON- KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Cover and back-liner photographs by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
Riverside-Reeves SPECTOROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.