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Jimmy Heath has been around for a long time. He's played sax with so many jazz greats over the last 50 years that to list them all would be an article unto itself. However, here is a sample: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Howard McGhee and of course, Kenny Durham. On Oct. 20, 2000, the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts honored Heath at his birthday concert at Flushing Town Hall just 5 days short of his 74th birthday. What a night! A Big Band of 16 noted players (in addition to Heath) were especially brought together for the gala event. Members of the birthday band included: Benny Powell, the legendary trombonist, Earl McIntyre, Dave Gibson, and Avi Lebow also on trombone; Virgil Jones, Roger Ingram, Diego Urcola, and Earl Gardner on trumpet; saxophonists, Danny Banks (performed with Bing Crosby and Charlie Parker), Jimmy Cozier, Bobby Lavelle, Charles Davis, and Podd Bashore; the bassist Paul West; and on piano, Jeb Patton. The festivities opened with a performance by the Queens All-Star High School Jazz Band who performed with great gusto the Heath composition, "All Members."
Next, the main event of the celebration: Jimmy Heath and his Big Band. He opened with his original composition; "Big P" dedicated to his brother Percy Heath, the bassist. Terrific playing by bassist Paul West and pianist Jeb Patton. This was followed by such selections as Cannonball Adderly's "Gemni"; Ram Ramirez's "Lover Man" which featured sexy solos by Heath and West, and a fantastic interpretation of Charlie Parker's "Red Cross" with Earl Gardner's inspired trumpet.
After intermission, Heath played more of his own compositions; "The Basie Section," and "The Voice of the Saxophone," (dedicated to Ornette Coleman) from his "Afro-American Suite of Evolution"; "without you-No Me" (written for Dizzy Gillespie) and "Gingerbread Boy." The concert concluded with a spirited playing of Kenny Durham's "Una Mas".
In addition to all this, Heath premiered a new arrangement for big band of Monty Alexander's (famous Jamaican jazz pianist/composer), "You Can See." Avi Lebow on trombone, Podd Bashore on sax and Jeb Patton on piano were really hot! This was one "mellow groove" of a selection.
Jimmy Heath's Big Band Birthday Bash was one helleva celebration. Happy Birthday Jimmy!