Jimmy Heath | Publicity

  • Jimmy Heath
  • Jimmy Heath
  • Jimmy Heath
  • Jimmy Heath
Featured, Publicity
About This Project

Jimmy Heath picked up his tenor saxophone at only a couple of choice moments in his first set at the Blue Note on Tuesday, and somehow he made that feel almost magnanimous. Leading his big band in the second of four nights at the club, he was in brisk conductor mode, often moving his small frame with the spry dynamism of a jack-in-the-box. His fallback demeanor, gleeful but alert, suggested the air of a machinist watching his parts whirl magically into gear.


Mr. Heath has oceans of experience composing and arranging for large ensembles, going back to his youth in Philadelphia (in the ’40s) and his accomplished second album, “Really Big!” (1960). But his big band hasn’t been a steady fixture in New York, which is one reason that he’s better known for his role in the Heath Brothers, who have been such a fixture, righteously so.


What Tuesday’s set underlined was the robust clarity of Mr. Heath’s vision as a big-band helmsman, which hasn’t clouded a bit. (“Now what are we celebrating tonight?” Bill Cosby, as M.C., demanded of Mr. Heath during the set’s sly, deadpan introduction. “Just that you’re old, or what?” Mr. Heath turned 87 last week.) The band — smartly propelled by the drummer Lewis Nash, with the pianist Jeb Patton and the bassist David Wong, who make up the nonfraternal junior half of the Heath Brothers — kept up a snappy coherence, catching fire in strategic flares.


There were sharp, bracing solos from each corner of the band, notably the alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, a former protégé of Mr. Heath’s, and the trumpeters Freddie Hendrix and Terell Stafford. But the greater focus was the slangy counterpoint between sections, as when the trumpets punctured the smooth arc of a saxophone line in “Gemini,” one of Mr. Heath’s durable older tunes.


– Nate Chinen (New York Times)