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Live Reviews

3rd Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival

By Published: March 12, 2004
The final concert was held at the Geyser Peak Picnic Area and it opened with the Billy Higgins Sextet. Since Higgins resettled in Los Angeles in the last years of his life, he had the opportunity to put this group together with some of the finest players from that city. The front line of Harold Land, tenor saxophone, Oscar Brashear, trumpet and George Bohanon, trombone, is as strong a line-up as any and represents a remarkable range of experience and mastery. I was particularly taken with the pianist William Henderson who was having an especially good day. The bassist Jeffery Littleton was Billy's first choice among the players in L.A., and the drummer, young Charles, Jr. "Chuckie" McPherson is someone I imagine we will be hearing from a great deal more in the future. McPherson is the son of the well-known alto saxophonist Charles McPherson and I suspect a protegé of Billy Higgins.

Next came the Heath brothers, Percy, Jimmy and "Tootie." Along with their latest pianist, the young a very capable Jeb Patton, they turned in a remarkable set that was truly worthy of its place at the end of an extraordinary five days of music. Jimmy, one of the outstanding saxophonists, composers and arrangers of his generation told a series of beautiful stories in his solos. Percy's mastery of the bass, and improvisation in general has only been enhanced by his advanced age. He is still one of the very greatest jazz bass players alive today. Albert "Tootie" Heath is likewise among the finest drummers in jazz with accomplishments too numerous to mention and was, as usual, a joy to hear. The young Jeb Patton has been taken into the hearts of the Heaths, who call him the fourth Heath Brother. At one time he was a student of Jimmy's, and now he has become a vital link from an older generation to the future.

Because I had to catch a plane out of San Francisco I had to tear myself away from Healdsburg before the grand finale, A Salute to Billy Higgins. The drummers who had played at the festival formed themselves into a percussion ensemble, along with, I suspect, some surprise guests. I wish I could report on this set as well, but we will all just have to imagine what it was like as we give thanks for having had the talented and generous Mr. Higgins among us with his smile, grace and magnificent music.


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