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The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra: Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search (2010)

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Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath is highly respected by his peers and by serious listeners, but he isn't well known outside the jazz world in the way that Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
, Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
are. He played with those legends and many more. He formed The Heath Brothers in 1975 with his siblings, drummer Albert "Tootie Heath and bassist Percy Heath
Percy Heath
Percy Heath
1923 - 2005
bass, acoustic
, and has penned numerous tunes that have become classics, including "CTA" and "Gingerbread Boy." Like Gillespie before him, he reaches beyond jazz in his endless artistic search, having penned suites, compositions for string quartets and a symphonic work.

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, under the dual directorships of drummer Clarence Acox and multiple reedman Michael Brockman, enticed Heath into their fold for the timeless and marvelous Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search Suite. It is an orchestral offering that leaps out of the speakers with a rich fanfare of gorgeous harmony and tight rhythmic zest. Then Heath solos, and proves himself—for those unfamiliar—a giant of melodic invention and improvisational energy; in his eighth decade, and still kickin' it. For comparison's sake, Heath the soloist is probably closest to a fellow under-sung tenor man, George Coleman
George Coleman
George Coleman
b.1935
sax, tenor
—another all-too-brief Davis cohort. Both saxophonists stay firmly within the mainstream, with extraordinary intelligence, invention and no-holds-barred verve.

Besides Heath's efforts, there is no shortage of premier soloing happening in the Seattle Repertory Orchestra. On the suite itself, Brockman wields an alto axe that cranks up the intensity a notch, giving way to a bright and shining trumpet turn by Jay Thomas. All this in the eight-plus minute "Part I." It stays just as stellar in "Part III: Where It Started." Heath, pianist Randy Halberstadt, the inimitable tenorist Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman
1932 - 2010
saxophone
, and an especially inspired David Marriott, Jr.
David Marriott, Jr.
b.1973
trombone
on trombone, all take things to the highest level of jazz improvisation.

The three-part suite leads into another Heath offering, "Sleeves." The saxophonist/composer sounds as if he's blowing from his gut in front of some Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
harmony. The guttural vibe goes deeper when baritone saxophonist Bill Ramsay gets his turn, his growl giving way to Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
b.1961
composer/conductor
's sweet and sour alto sax.

The great soloing is aided and abetted by terrific accompaniment from the rest of the orchestra, with arrangements that are by turns delicate or forceful, prowling or lilting, and always spot on.

Co-director Brockman contributes "Passage Noir," which begins with an ominous rollick, leading into a Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
feel from the ensemble before Brockman takes an impassioned alto solo.

The disc closes with two classics—Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
' "Haitian Fight Song," riding the high horsepower drive train of Phil Sparks' insistent bass inside the wild horn play, followed by the gem, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "Creole Love Song," with trumpeter Thomas Marriott cool-talking, Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
1911 - 1985
trumpet
style, around the plunger mute. A fantastic wrap-up to one of the top big band efforts of the year.

Track Listing: The Endless Search Suite: Part I: The Endless Search; Part II: Inside Your Heart; Part III: Where It Started; Sleeves; Passage Noir; Haitian Fight Song; Creole Love Song.

Personnel: Jimmy Heath: tenor saxophone (1-4); Michael Brockman: lead alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Mark Taylor: alto and tenor saxophone; Hadley Caliman: tenor saxophone; Travis Ranney: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Bill Ramsay: baritone saxophone; Scott Macpherson: alto saxophone (6); Scott Brown: lead trombone; David Marriott, Jr. trombone; Dan Marcus: trombone; Bill Anthony: trombone; David Bentley: bass trombone; Cesar Amaral: lead trumpet (1-4); Andy Omdahl: trumpet (lead 6); Dennis Haldane: trumpet; Jay Thomas: trumpet; Thomas Marriott: trumpet; Clarence Acox: drums; Phil Sparks: bass; Randy Halberstadt: piano (1-4, 6); Bill Anschell: piano (5); Jon Hansen: tuba (5).

Record Label: Origin Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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