The Heath Brothers: Paris 76

The audio of a 1976 TV programme featuring the Heath brothers plus Stanley Cowell on piano is remastered and issued for the first time

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This programme was recorded for French television by ORTF in 1976 and broadcast but never previously issued as an album. It’s described here as “The lost live session, presented here for the first time.” The jacket claims it is a studio session but the loud, enthusiastic and obviously concert-hall-sized audience says otherwise.

The music is lively and fresh and a welcome addition to any serious jazz enthusiast’s collection. The longest track, Smilin’ Billy, features Percy on cello, Jimmy on flute and what sounds like a xylophone. This is 22 minutes of post-bop improvisation with free-jazz flourishes all held together by some forceful, stimulating drumming by Albert. In fact, the drummer is in top form all through this recital, controlling the flow and movement of the rhythms wherever the soloists venture.

One For Juan again begins with solo cello and is followed by Heath on soprano and then tenor sax and Cowell, the only non-Heath musician, on piano. Watergate Blues is a straightforward down-home blues with Percy on cello all through and playing solo until about two minutes from the end when he is joined by brother Jimmy on flute.

The entire session is unusual in the musicians’ approach and the instrumentation employed. There are some first-class solo lines from Percy – mainly on cello – and from Jimmy on various reeds, and that unexpected xylophone burst. Newly remastered by Cohearent Mastering, an already good recording sparkles into fresh life.

Discography
One For Juan; Watergate Blues; Smilin’ Billy (42.01)
Jimmy Heath (ts, ss, pc); Stanley Cowell (p); Percy Heath (b, clo); Albert Heath (d). Paris, 16 April 1976.
Sam Records SRLP 29