The Professor is taken from three small-group Landmark sessions of 1974, 1985, and 1987. Jimmy Heath plays tenor on most tracks, alto on "The Voice of the Saxophone," and soprano on "No End" & "Sophisticated Lady." The compilation gets its title from Heath’s ten-year tenure as a professor for The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College; he retired last year. In the liner notes, Joel Dorn reminds us that this music called jazz is passed from generation to generation only through the willingness of some to share their knowledge and encourage others. Dizzy Gillespie was Heath’s teacher and inspiration; in turn, Heath has helped others immeasurably.
A gentle waltz from the 1985 session, "New Picture" evokes an impression of the springtime and its new beginnings. The lightness of Martino’s guitar and the combined timbres of trombone & tenor saxophone paint the scenery all green and bright. Kenny Dorham’s "No End" (from the 1974 session) features Pat Martino’s blazing guitar – which was in top form – for the Latinized ballad arrangement with soprano saxophone lead. On "Song for Ben Webster" the leader pays tribute with a big fat warm tenor saxophone sound and minimum accompaniment. Tony Purrone and Tom Williams join Heath on "Forever Sonny" with up-tempo unison passages and stirring solo affairs. The tune is a different form of tribute, offering crisp rhythmic solo spots from piano, tenor, trumpet, and guitar. Heath’s soprano saxophone and Purrone’s guitar deliver Bird’s lines in unison on "Dewey Square." The tune provides experienced solo work from Flanagan and Heath, who switches to tenor for that portion. "Sophisticated Lady" adds a brass choir to Heath’s soprano saxophone lead. The Duke Ellington tune is a reminder that "professors" from around the world will continue to "teach" this music we call jazz; it’s the only way.
Track Listing: The Time and the Place*; New Picture#; The Voice of the Saxophone*; Dewey Square#; Song for Ben Webster+; Forever Sonny+; No End*; Sophisticated Lady#.
Personnel: Jimmy Heath- tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones; Pat Martino*, Tony Purrone#- guitar; Stanley Cowell*, Larry Willis+, Tommy Flanagan#- piano; Sam Jones*, Rufus Reid#, Stafford James+- bass; Billy Higgins*, Al Foster#, Akira Tana+- drums; Mtume- congas on "The Time and the Place" & "No End"; Curtis Fuller- trombone on "The Time and the Place"; Tom Williams- trumpet on "Forever Sonny"; John Clark, Bob Routch- French horn on "Sophisticated Lady"; Benny Powell- trombone on "Sophisticated Lady"; Howard Johnson- tuba on "Sophisticated Lady".
The first record I bought was Miles Smiles. Having been a drummer since age two, hearing a young Tony Williams opened up so many possibilities for a 14 year old church drummer. My life changed that day and I've never looked back!