JIMMY HEATH: THE QUOTA
Freddie Hubbard (tp) Julius Watkins (frh) Jimmy Heath (ts, arr) Cedar Walton (p) Percy Heath (b) Albert Heath (dtrs)
Recorded in New York; April 14 and 20, 1961
The Quota (5:04) (Jimmy Heath)
Lowland Lullaby (4:32) (Jimmy Heath)
Thinking of You (5”04) (Kalmar – Ruby)
Bells and Horns (4:51) (Milt Jackson)
Down Shift (5:43) (Jimmy Heath)
When sunny Gets Blue (6:27) (fisher – Segal)
Funny Time (6:21) (Jimmy Heath)
Strangely enough, one of a performer’s toughest battles in the entertainment world can be the necessity of competing with his own relatives. More than a few performers have gone so far as to change their names to avoid the otherwise-inevitable comparisons or accusations of “cashing-in” on a relative’s name-value. Again strangely enough, by way of direct contrast, this is not at all necessarily so in the case of jazz musicians. I’d like to think that this means our music fans are a shade more realistic than our movie fans. But whatever the reason may be, it’s safe to say that the relative-syndrome meant nothing much to the Dodds family, or the Dorseys, and in our own day has had little or no effect on the individual careers of such souls as the Adderley, Jones, Condoli, Farmer, Mitchell, Sims or Montgomery brothers, to name just a few. (Looking at it from the consumer’s standpoint. I can’t for example see either buying or not buying a Nat Adderley record just because he’s Cannonball’s brother! I can see buying a Nat Adderley record because he’s a good player.)
Turning to the artist immediately at hand, JIMMY HEATH has a musician-brother – tow of them, as a matter of fact. He’s also an extremely good player. And composer. And arranger. For the last three reasons (and, with all due respect to Percy and Albert, for those reasons only), I can see buying a Jimmy Heath record. Especially “The Quota.” To come right out with it, if this album gets the exposure it truly deserves, I feel sure we’ll never again hear anyone saying: “Jimmy Heath, man. You know – Percy’s brother.”
Like Jimmy’s first effort as a leader (also for Riverside), this is a sextet date. The most obvious difference between the two albums lies in the instrumentation. In this front line, he adds trumpet and French horn to his own full-sounding tenor, as distinguished form the earlier album’s cornet and trombone. In my opinion, this lightly less orthodox choice was a wise one, and the results most gratifying. Both brass, by virtue of their mechanical capabilities, offer Jimmy a wide range of usefulness as added solo voices as well as in the ensembles: crisp and biting when that is called for, and on other occasions as broad and rich as any harmonic cushion could be.
I’d hesitate to challenge Jimmy’s choice of sidemen for this recording, and so should you. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, still in his early twenties, is rapidly becoming one of the leading lights of the instrument in the eyes of both the public and the infamous critics. (He finished third in a very closely-bunched race in the “New Star” category in the 1960 International Jazz Critic Poll.) Under the catch-all heading of: Miscellaneous Instruments” in the same poll (“odd star” or “open-to-all-comers” category), Julius Watkins turned up as a strong first. Certainly the most active French horn soloist in jazz, Julius at last hearing was holding down a chair in the Quincy Jones orchestra, as he has been doing ever since that band was formed. On Lowland Lullaby and Bells and Horns in particular, he demonstrates how his particularly difficult instrument can be mastered and definitely applied to jazz. (The latter number, incidentally, was written and first recorded by Milt Jackson: “bells” presumably applies to Bags’ own sound, since there are no bells here – although a lot of other things are going on.)
The ‘operate-like-one-man’ rhythm section – consisting of older brother Percy; younger brother Albert, whom everyone calls by the since-childhood nickname of “Tootie,” but who prefers not to be billed that way; and pianist Cedar Walton – contributes considerably to the proceedings. This is obviously the best thing to do with relatives: enlist their talents and all the empathy of a close-knit family in support of your efforts. (In addition, “Tootie” and Cedar have been a team since both were with J. J. Johnson and are currently working together in the Benny Golson-Art Famer Jazztet.) On the title tune, listen to Percy’s delicate and powerful solo as he explores the height and the depth of his instrument. Walton’s horn-like solo on When Sunny Gets Blue, short though it may be, is most effective.
As far as Jimmy Heath himself is concerned, much as I dislike the use of quotes (“If you’re trying to say something, say it yourself!”). I think I’ll use one now, since for my money a Down Beat record reviewer has best-described Jimmy’s playing as “lean, but filled with blood, as good red meat should be. His work is passionate, but not of purplish hue, ‘Manly’ would best describe his tenor playing.” Jimmy’s style is “lean,” but it’s leanness with a sense of urgency to it. You can hear this on When sunny Gets Blue, a ballad that features Jimmy at his best in a truly moving solo. You can also hear a bit of that “non-purplish” passion on the same track. The “manly” aspect, I would think, shows itself most clearly on Funny time. That ain’t no chick blowing!
The considerable Heath writing talent is plainly evident in the four original compositions and the six charts contained herein. (One of the seven selections, the standard Thinking of You , is a head arrangement that provides a little blowing space for all, including a series of ‘fours’ for the drums of good, young “Tootie.”) The originals begin with the loping album-title tune, and include the infectious Lowland Lullaby, based on a melody Mrs. Heath used to sing to the boys. And to think my mother retarded me with the dumb changes to Rockabye Baby! There’s also Sown Shift, a tasty bit of funk with a title readily understood by any sports car enthusiast or trailer-truck driver. Being one of the former, on hearing the tune I actually did get the feeling of driving a high-powered automobile down a long, dark, curving road, my right foot buried in the floor-boards and … oh well, it’s a very good tune. Finally, on Funny Time the instrumentation is shown off to good advantage in the form of interesting blends on both the ensembles and the two-horn backgrounds.
When Jimmy’s album just prior to this one (“Really big”) was released, many listeners, including myself, were happy to hear his playing and writing in a different and unique setting – that of a big-band-sounding tentette. On that occasion Jimmy proved quite capable of utilizing those extra horns to the fullest advantage. With the present sextet date, Jimmy once again shows himself to be a versatile and flexible artist. Comparing the two albums (and you can also add his first sextet LP to the comparison) emphasizes the extent of this flexibility. It’s not just a matter of having more or less horns to work with, but – much more importantly – of being able to shape the whole nature of his work to the needs of the specific task at hand, while retaining nonetheless a recognizable personal “feel” in all cases. This ability to create appropriate music is about as fresh and unusual as it is valuable. So, in the enclosed album, Jimmy has given us another bit of freshness: in tunes … arrangements … and sound. My dictionary defines “quota” as “a proportional share.” As far as I’m concerned, Jimmy Heath has given us far more than The Quota.
Album design: KEN DEADOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, New York