Album Review: Turn Up the Heath

Turn up the heath


One of the best composers and arrangers to emerge during the bop era… Jimmy Heath’s Turn Up the Heath will be paying dividends to jazz fans for generations.” ~Ken Dryden, All Music Guide

“The disc is a masterpiece…The tunes are complex, yet they swing…” ~Linda Yohn, WEMU Jazz

I am certain that the first music of my life would have been big band music. It was my mother’s favorite kind: Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman. Never much for tv (a trait I have sadly inherited), she played music often first on a big high-fi and later on a big console stereo. Those album covers and that music were as familiar to me as the back of my own hand.

Largely for economic reasons, big bands went out of fashion. A small jazz combo is a much better business model after all. Yet the sound of a big band is as much a part of jazz as the saxophone. A good book could be written about the death of the big band and the loss of the American soul.

For this week’s Album Review, I chose to spend the week with a “modern” big band, and a true jazz great, on the suggestion of my wife who heard Jimmy Heath interviewed on NPR. And I am glad I did.

Heath (who is still alive) played with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley as well as his brothers Percy and Albert. A fine saxophonist, Heath’s greatest contributions to jazz and American music has been as a composer and an arranger.

In Turn up the Heath, Heath plays, of course, but turns most of the soloing over to the fine ensemble he has put together for the recording.

On “I Am Glad There Is You,” for example, Heath’s tenor is beautiful and soulful. It is the work of a true artist… as good as anyone.

Ultimately though my favorite tracks on the album are two songs fans of Cannonball Adderley will recognize, “Big P” and “Gemini.” Pumped-up big time for the big band, these two great tunes are even better.

Turn of the Heath reminds us simultaneously of how great big band music can be, and how much we have ultimately lost by letting it go away. Turn of the Heath has also officially become an essential album in my cd collection.

Ivey-Divey, indeed!


  • Big P
  • Heritage Hum
  • Gemini; Like a Son
  • I’m Glad There Is You
  • One for Juan
  • Project S; Sources Say
  • No End; Basic Birks
    Time (73:51)


(Tracks 1,2,4-7) Jimmy Heath: leader, tenor sax; Frank Greene, Nick Marchione, Michael Philip Mossman, Terell Stafford: trumpet; Mark Gross: alto sax, flute; Antonio Hart: alto, soprano sax, flute; Bobby LaVell, Charles Davis: tenor sax; Jay Branford: baritone sax; John Mosca, Slide Hampton, Benny Powell: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Jeb Patton: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums. (3,8-10) Jimmy Heath: leader, tenor sax; Greene, Mossman, Greg Gisbert, Sean Jones: trumpet; Gross: alto sax, flute; Hart: alto, soprano sax, flute; LaVell, Andres Boiarsky: tenor sax; Gary Smulyan: baritone sax; Mosca, Steve Davis, Jason Jackson: trombone; Purviance: bass trombone; Patton: piano; Washington: bass; Nash: drums. Guest artists: Lew Tabackin: flute (3); Joe Gonzales: congas (2), giro (6).


Record Label: Planet Arts

Next Week’s Review

Turn Up the Heath, The Jimmy Heath Big Band