Jimmy Heath: Endurance - JazzWax

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September 11, 2009


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Ed Leimbacher

Great that you featured Moody and Heath back to back. Whether it's 4A's or 2T's those guys are the gold standard of an era. Is it irony or justice that Heath had his prison time and Moody his stretch at Overbrook, and both came back so strong that here they are, Masters-not-even-Emeritus today? (Endurance indeed.) I got to watch the strivin' seniors at work in recent years, each separately performing as special featured guest with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. And a decade ago, I even sold some classic Moody LPs to his then wife; I like to think I contributed to the rebuilding of his career library... gotta be lots of wide shelves, for him and Heath too.


Well, this sent me right back to Black Drops and Lazy Bird, which I hadn't heard in many moons. Heath roars through his solo, and both Virgil Jones and the Burner raise the room temperature by several hundred thousand kelvins. Buck Green is much the same: funky, fast tempo hard bop, suffused with blues grooves.

Semi-unknowns like Jones always interest me; many of them seem to experience the musical equivalent of 15 minutes of fame, one or two solos or even a full session in which they reach peaks they simply never approximate again. Maybe talent is as much sustained excellence as anything else, with emphasis on 'sustained'.

In any case, thanks for lighting a fire under me (bad pun).


One of Jimmy's notable accomplishments during 1956 was writing most of the classic Pepper/Baker/Urso date "Playboys." They had to send someone by the prison to pick up the charts. The album was reissued as "Picture of Heath," not to be confused with the 1975 album.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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