Review: Jimmy Heath, Quota/Triple Threat




The Philadelphia Heath brothers were in their pomp when these superb sessions were recorded for Riverside and they still bear the stamp of originality, top musicianship and good taste

JIMMY HEATH SEXTET
THE QUOTA & TRIPLE THREAT
CD1: [The Quota] The Quota; Lowland Lullaby; Thinking Of You; Bells And Horns; Down Shift; When Sunny Gets Blue; Funny Time (36.44) CD2: [Triple Threat] Gemini; Bruh’ Slim; Goodbye; Dew And Mud; Make Someone Happy; The More I See You; Prospecting (36.46)
Freddie Hubbard (t); Julius Watkins (frh); Jimmy Heath (ts); Cedar Walton (p); Percy Heath (b); Albert “Tootie” Heath (d). NYC, [The Quota] 14 and 20 April 1961, [Triple Threat] 14 and 17 January 1962.
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 859
*****

Sometimes CD reissues hit you right in the G-spot. Was that (you wonder) really recorded more than half-a-century ago? And of course it was, and then (like buses) two come along together. The Philadelphia Heath brothers were in their pomp when these superb sessions were recorded for Riverside and they still bear the stamp of originality, top musicianship and good taste. Leader Jimmy was responsible for the arrangements and had that rare talent which can make a small combo sound like more than the sum of its parts. And with the unusual disposition of a French horn as a front-line instrument, this was a beautifully balanced group, due in part to the mercurial horn-playing of Julius Watkins (died 1977).

Watkins was the first to take that difficult instrument to a new level in jazz. From the French horn you expect sweetly brassy, swelling notes to thicken the broth of the ensemble: but this player with his extraordinary technique challenged the passionate solo flights of the (then) young Freddie Hubbard with articulate lines and exciting leaps into the high register. It still sounds quite impossible. Incidentally, he tutored current horn star Tom Varner for a spell.

In this notable double-album, Jimmy Heath contributed many of the themes, displaying a lively gift for melody: his simple 12-bar construction The Quota and his moodily expressive Lowland Lullaby with its slightly funky feel gave lots of lift-off for soloing. And every member of this band was at the top of his game in these studio gigs. Clearly a five-star rediscovery.

Anthony Troon


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