The Jimmy Heath Orchestra - Really Big!

The Jimmy Heath Orchestra Really Big! (Riverside 1960)

‘Little Bird’ was a nickname that soon wore off as Jimmy Heath developed into a saxophonist, composer and arranger with a singular style. By 1960, Heath had recorded his second album for Riverside, the bright and muscular Really Big!, including, yes, Clark Terry, yes, Cannonball Adderley and, yes, Tommy Flanagan.

The Jimmy Heath Orchestra - Really Big!

Personnel

Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), Clark Terry (flugelhorn, trumpet), Nat Adderley (trumpet), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Pat Patrick (baritone saxophone), Tom McIntosh (trombone), Dick Berg (French horn), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Cedar Walton (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Albert Heath (drums)

Recorded

on June 24 & 28, 1960 in NYC

Released

as RLP 333 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Big P.
Old Fashioned Fun
Mona’s Mood
Dat Dere
Side B:
Nails
On Green Dolphin Street
My Ideal
Picture Of Heath


Awhile ago I was observing pianist Barry Harris, 87, who sat listening to drummer Eric Ineke and colleagues play in a cozy club in The Hague, The Netherlands. I realised that I wasn’t only looking at Barry Harris, but also at Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. A giant among GIANTS. The same applies for Jimmy Heath, 90, who titled his memoirs I Walked With Giants and, lest we forget, recorded with Harris on a number of occasions, notably on Carmell Jones’ Jay Hawk Talk (Prestige 1965) and Jimmy Heath’s Picture Of Heath (Xanadu 1975).

Heath has been active since the late forties, when he led his first big band, which included fellow Philadelphians John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Ray Bryant, Cal Massey and Johnny Coles. Subsequently, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s Orchestra and worked briefly with Miles Davis after Coltrane’s departure from the trumpeter’s quintet. During an impressive career, Heath worked extensively with Milt Jackson, Art Farmer and his illustrious brothers Percy and Albert in the sixties. He worked to a greater extent with them from the late seventies as the exciting recording and working band The Heath Brothers. To his composer’s credit, C.T.A., Gingerbread Boy and Gemini have become standards. The number of features is lengthy. Titles as J.J. Johnson’s The Eminent J.J. Johnson Vol. 1, Miles Davis’ Miles Davis Vol. 2, Nat Adderley’s That’s Right!, Freddie Hubbard’s Hub Cap, Red Garland’s The Quota and Albert “Tootie” Heath’s Kwanza serve as a reminder of the continous high level Jimmy Heath was operating on. Hammond B3 geek info: Heath also appeared on Charles Earland’s Black Drops and Don Patterson’s masterpiece These Are Soulful Days.

Fortunately, quite a few of Heath’s generation are still alive, not only playing but teaching as well. Like Barry Harris, Charles Persip, Harold Mabern and Julian Priester, Jimmy Heath is a teacher. He’s a conductor as well. Heath conducted the renowned German WDR Orchestra a year and a half ago. Reportedly, his methods revealed the sensitivity of an elder statesman for which notation is important but a secondary aspect. For Heath, the motion of rhythm and melody is paramount. He’s funny and points the way with charmingly oblique remarks. Rest assured the band will swing. Truly irreplacable jewels of jazz, these old-school musicians who were close to The Source of Bird and Coltrane and pushed some fat envelopes themselves.

56 years before the event of the WDR appearance, Heath led a band for his Really Big! Riverside date consisting of trumpeters Clark Terry and Nat Adderley, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, baritone saxophonist Pat Patrick, trombonist Tom McIntosh, French horn player Dick Berg, either Tommy Flanagan or Cedar Walton on piano, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. In a thoroughly blasting sound scape, brass and reed do an ongoing paso doble. The sophisticated use of the French horn in the ballad Mona’s Mood and the Bobby Timmons gem Dat Dere is an extra treat. Trumpeter Clark Terry’s another treat, supplying hi-level fun. He soars joyfully and fluently through the changes, demonstrating that his playing in the high-register is nonpareil. Cannonball’s got short spots, yet is his uplifting self and chimes in with some meaty little stories.

Highlights include the band’s mellow but driving take on Dat Dere, the way Clark Terry nails the buoyant theme bookended by swinging 4/4 sections of Nails, Tommy Flanagan’s sizzling bopology (quoting Now’s The Time/The Hucklebuck) of Picture Of Heath and the leader’s gentle but probing reading of My Ideal and driving uptempo tale of Old Fashioned Fun. Much like early Coltrane, Heath favors a multi-note approach. Soaring bop figures segue into wails and flow back to wonderfully constructed lines. Pretty hypnotic. Like Benny Golson, Heath’s ambidexterity is imposing, the blowing deparment equally impressive as his talent for arranging and composing. Really Big’s a superb case in point.

Tommy Flanagan - Overseas

Tommy Flanagan Overseas (Prestige 1957)

In it goes, smoothly, like the royal lemon pie of my favorite pattisier. The ingredients of pianist Tommy Flanagan’s debut album as a leader, Overseas, are the best of the best, farm-fresh and complement each other in all sorts of interesting ways.

Tommy Flanagan - Overseas

Personnel

Tommy Flanagan (piano), Wilbur Little (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded

in Stockholm, Sweden in 1957

Released

as PRLP 7134 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Relaxin’ At Camarillo
Chelsea Bridge
Eclypso
Beat’s Up
Skal Brother
Side B:
Little Rock
Verdandi
Delarna
Willow Weep For Me


Listening to Flanagan follow up Charlie Parker’s speed devilish Relaxin’ At Camarillo with the elegiac, orchestral Billy Strayhorn classic Chelsea Bridge is a gift for the auditory senses. Abundant proof of the pianist’s class. A lot of Flanagan’s inventive and influential flair is present on these tunes and album: a striking penchant to alter melodies, often with the use of surprisingly chic dissonance, wonderful continuity of ideas, a snappy beat. Moreover, that triumvirate of talents – let’s make it a foursome adding a delicate yet determined touch – is put to use for creating, as Flanagan once put it succinctly, ‘an overall tonality’.

Ever since arriving in New York from his hometown Detroit in 1956, Flanagan had been in constant demand. Influenced by both the old masters Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and Nat King Cole and bebop pioneer Bud Powell, Flanagan adapted easily to differing surroundings. For much of the sixties and seventies, Flanagan accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, which prevented him from recording many albums as a leader in the sixties. During the following decades, however, Flanagan sealed his reputation as a master of the trio format. As a sideman in the late fifties and sixties, the pianist not only recorded prolifically with a number of top-rate colleagues like Kenny Burrell, Kenny Dorham, Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon and Coleman Hawkins, but also partook in two undisputed all-time classic albums: Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

How it came about that Flanagan got the lucky break to be involved in Coltrane’s complex masterpiece instead of first choice Cedar Walton is recounted here in a talk of Walton with journalist Marc “Jazzwax” Myers, jazz ambassador sui generis. Incidentally, one of Flanagan’s many Enja albums, 1982’s Giant Steps, is dedicated solely to Coltrane’s masterwork, and masterfully so. Did Flanagan feel the need to prove that his playing had improved since 1959?

Overseas, which was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden while Flanagan, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Wilbur Little toured with trombonist J.J. Johnson, spawns immaculate, spirited trio work. You will cherish the Elvin Jones masterclass of drumming with brushes. Not only does Jones swing effortlessly, his brush work is probing and highly charged. Very unusual and an absolute gas! The pocket at breakneck speed that Jones and Little lay down in Verdandi – a title and composition that suggest the influence of John Lewis; think Milano or Vendôme – is a dream for a pianist of Flanagan’s capacities, who answers the call with a showcase of virtuosity for beauty’s sake. There are a number of blues-related tunes on Overseas, Flanagan explores the form like a geologist a cave, picking in crevices, drawing back in contemplation, moving on and (unlike many geologists), finding light at the end of the tunnel. The one-minute solo in Skal Brothers, a tune that has a Ray Bryant-feel, is awe-inspiring.

The rumble of Eclypso’s theme is reminiscent of Caravan. Flanagan would re-visit his original tune on the 1973 Enja album Eclypso. By then, the public was used to the release of a splendid Flanagan album. In 1957, the flawless, ambitious Overseas announced the arrival of a leading piano artist with tremendous abilities, charm and vision.

Kenny Dorham - Trompeta Toccata

Kenny Dorham Trompeta Toccata (Blue Note 1964)

Nothing prepares you for what’s going to happen after Kenny Dorham’s lyrical opening statements in duet with the piano of Trompeta Toccata’s title track. What follows is a buoyant Afro-Cuban gem, the opening track of one of the trumpeter’s finest recordings.

Kenny Dorham - Trompeta Toccata

Personnel

Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Tommy Flanagan (piano), (Richard Davis, bass), Albert Heath (drums)

Recorded

on September 14, 1964 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 8418 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Trompeta Toccata
Night Watch
Side B:
Mamacita
The Fox


Trompeta Toccata suggests Dorham played cousin to Blue Note’s front-line albums of the period like Andrew Hill’s Point Of Departure and Herbie Hancock’s My Point Of View. Dorham played on Point Of Departure alongside Richard Davis. But those albums are more dark-hued. Trompeta Toccata bears a lithe charm all its own. Like his colleagues, Dorham stretched the boundaries of hard bop, playing more freely, with a varied, more percussive style. At the same time, Dorham retained his trademark lyrical style and sweet-sour tone. The combination of the experimental Richard Davis, combative Joe Henderson, elegant Tommy Flanagan and versatile Albert Heath guarantees a lot of interesting textures.

Trompeta Toccato didn’t suddenly came out of the blue. Both Dorham’s albums that preceded it, Matador (with Jackie McLean) and Una Mas broadened the horizons of the trumpeter. Dorham had cooperated with Joe Henderson as well, notably on the abovementioned Una Mas and Henderson’s dates Page One (that included the oft-covered Dorham winner Blue Bossa), Our Thing and In & Out, a title that suggests the same modus operandi as Trompeta Toccata. A key figure on a lot of Blue Note’s vanguard sessions (A series of Andrew Hill albums, Joe Henderson’s In & Out, Booker Ervin’s The Freedom Book) and the iconic Out To Lunch from Eric Dolphy) is the brilliant bassist Richard Davis. Davis’s cutting edge bass playing, including virtuoso sliding technique, is strongly featured on Trompeta Toccata. His work on the title track, advanced but firm and coherent at the same time, is a gas. The contrast between the experiments of Davis and Tommy Flanagan’s impressionistic voicings is very enjoyable.

Meanwhile Dorham and Henderson are preoccupied with the melody, stressing staccato runs that start or finish with unexpected notes. Dorham’s husky edge and playful growls mix well with Joe Henderson’s virile, angular phrases. Dorham had been a premier advocate of the Carribean theme in jazz since the early fifties. The title track, consisting of a contagious 6/8 rhythm pattern, is one of his liveliest performances.

Joe Henderson’s Mamacita is equally catching. It’s a more mellow, less pithy take than Henderson’s re-visit on his 1967 Milestone album The Kicker. The medium-tempo Night Watch’s elaborate structure doesn’t take anything away from its unmistakable blues feeling. Dorham sprinkles the landscape of the fast-paced The Fox with a shower of elegant, fluent lines.

I like the fact that Blue Note resisted the temptation to go for a hit record by putting a more straightforward danceable track like Mamacita at the start of the album, as the label often did. (which worked out pretty swell, by the way) But for Dorham’s album, Blue Note favored the lengthy title track as the opener. It immediately states Dorham’s intentions and attributes to the album’s coherence. I’m fond of the album’s brisk, ebullient atmosphere.

Unfortunately, it was Kenny Dorham’s last album as a leader. In hindsight, the underappreciated Dorham, ‘the uncrowned king of the trumpet’, as Art Blakey so aptly put it in his 1955 live show introductions for the original Jazz Messengers (as captured on Live At The Bohemia I & II), was ready for public acceptance. More than ready, having stood at the helm of bebop alongside Charlie Parker in the late forties and early fifties and with a batch of classic albums as Afro-Cuban and Quiet Kenny and sideman appearances on a series of outstanding hard bop recordings in his pocket. Instead, Dorham slid into obscurity and untimely passed away in 1972 due to kidney disease.

But if you’re going to have a swan song, Trompeta Toccata more than qualifies.

Stanley Turrentine - Stan The Man

Stanley Turrentine Stan ‘The Man’ Turrentine (Time 1960)

Stanley Turrentine swings impeccably on his 1960 debut as leader Stan ‘The Man’ Turrentine, but his style isn’t as fully formed as on his later albums for Blue Note.

Stanley Turrentine - Stan The Man

Personnel

Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Tommy Flanagan (piano A1, A3, B2-3), Sonny Clark (piano A2, B1, B4), George Duvivier (bass), Max Roach (drums)

Recorded

in January 1960

Released

as Time 52086 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Let’s Groove
Sheri
Stolen Sweets
Side B:
Mild Is The Mood
Minor Mood
Time After Time
My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me


High quality sidemen Sonny Clark, Max Roach and George Duvivier recorded Sonny Clark Trio for Time Records in the same year. They bring a natural flow to Turrentine’s session, that also saw the more lighthearted Tommy Flanagan replace Sonny Clark; the latter adds Bud Powellesque twists and turns to Sheri. Stolen Sweets, a pretty Wild Bill Davis shuffle, is a highlight on this album.

This date is also issued by the same label as Let’s groove under leadership of legendary drummer Max Roach. (Picture sleeve addicts will undoubtly prefer this French copy to Stan ‘The Man’ Turrentine.) Exploitative practices of this kind are not uncommon. One wouldn’t expect chief of Time Records, Bob Shad, (best known for the Mainstream label’s polished 300 series) to go for a fast buck. However, it looks ‘shady’, to say the least.