We are writing to ask for your help.
Unfortunately, Billy Higgins is very sick again. Five years ago he received a liver transplant which was miraculous and has served him well. In recent months the new liver has showed signs of severe damage and Billy has been told that he will need another transplant. He has been in and out of the hospital since the end of October and has been unable to work. This has not only been very hard on his music loving spirit, but his ability to personal finances have deteriorated as well. Billy gives everything he has to his community and those around him who are in need.
He will go in for a final evaluation on Feb. 5, before being put on the transplant waiting list.Those of us who love him through personal association or through his music are pooling together to try and help him cover his medical and living expenses. A benefit was held in Los Angeles to raise money to support his unbelievably high medical costs. Until another benefit can be organized, we are hoping to gather Billy's friends, supporters and fans together to help at this very crucial time.
His contribution to music is far more then we could ever put into words, as most of you all know...please show him your support at this time of crisis. Send whatever amount you can. Make checks out to Larry Grenadier and Rebecca Martin, with a personal note to Billy and mail to:
Larry Grenadier/Rebecca Martin
PO Box 850
Marlboro, NY. 12542
We have been in close touch with Dorothy Darr and Charles Lloyd in Santa Barbara where Billy is being hospitalized. They are in close contact with him and give us updates. So you understand this process, to keep things simple for Billy, all donations will be consolidated and sent to Dorothy and Charles for Billy on a bi-weekly basis. A copy of each check will be included with your personal note so that the amount that you donate is known.
Thank you so much.
Larry Grenadier and Rebecca Martin
PS if you know someone who might want to help, PLEASE pass this note along....
Monday, January 22, 2001
Billy Higgins Gets a Hand From Friends and Fans
Jazz * The benefit gives musicians a chance to thank the drummer, who has fought a long battle with liver ailments.
By DON HECKMAN, Special to The Times
Billy Higgins had a small smile on his face Friday night as he sat near the stage at Bones & Blues, listening to a group of youngsters singing their way through the twists and turns of a Thelonious Monk song.
The smile, only a step down from the enthusiastic grin that is familiar to anyone who has seen this most-recorded of jazz drummers in action, was wistful too. The performance was a benefit to support Higgins, 64, in his continuing fight against liver ailments.
Turning away from the stage for a moment, Higgins shook his head in awe. Man, aren't those kids something?" he said. Then, before he could direct his attention back to the performance, he was greeted by an old friend, one in a stream of acquaintances and admirers who had turned out for an evening with scheduled performances by Charles Lloyd, Harold Land, Rose Gales, Bobby Matos, the Young World Stage All Stars, Gerry Rush and poet Kamau Daa'oud.
It wasn't at all surprising that so many musicians and listeners showed up to fill the venue, which is positioned within cavernous Phoenix Hall in central Los Angeles' the Center. Higgins' drumming has been a pivotal element in the jazz world since he received his first national recognition as a member of Ornette Coleman's trend-setting quartet of the late '50s and early '60s. But his versatility reached far beyond the arena of the jazz avant-garde. And in the succeeding decades he has worked in every imaginable jazz genre, with almost everyone in the jazz world, from Monk and Sonny Rollins to Pat Metheny and Joe Henderson.
The presence of many of the attendees, however--despite their great admiration for his musical accomplishments--was motivated by their gratitude for Higgins' work as an educator. In addition to the many occasions on which he has offered the wisdom of his talent and experience on a one-to-one basis, Higgins has created the World Stage in Leimert Park. The venue has brought world-class artists into the area for performance and education, serving as an invaluable contact point with the wider jazz world for aspiring young artists who otherwise might not have either the wherewithal or the opportunity to get such experiences.
Higgins' performances, however, have been in short supply lately. Although he has been active over the past few years since receiving a liver transplant, recent gigs have been suddenly canceled. And fans, showing up for performances by Lloyd and Cedar Walton--performances at which Higgins was expected to play--were disappointed by his absence, and rumors about his health began to circulate.
Asked how he was feeling, Higgins replied, OK, under the circumstances."
Urged for more information, he shrugged and added, Well, I'm going to have to get another transplant."
Then, with another of his slight smiles, he said, This one's lasted me five years, so I guess I can't complain."
Probably not, since complaining isn't especially consistent with Higgins, who seems far more concerned with finding solutions than dwelling on problems. But the situation, nonetheless, means that he will once again have to get in line with others awaiting similar operations.
Characteristically, none of that seemed to be on his mind when the evening seemed--surprisingly--to turn up a paucity of drummers, generating a few spontaneous shifts of personnel. That simply heightened a sense of anticipation. The buzz before the program, as well as during its opening segments, had been about whether Higgins would play--whether, in fact, he would be strong enough to play.
But when the opportunity arose to sit in with Lloyd, whose music has been especially compatible for Higgins, he climbed over the barrier near the front of the stage and moved behind the drums, once again delivering his incomparable percussion magic.
For the audience, it was a moment that was both rewarding and poignant. And their heartfelt response seemed to be both a touching indication of how much Billy Higgins has meant to jazz, as well as the expression of a clear desire for his healthy personal and musical future.