In recent weeks a constant trickle of jazz albums have been appearing in one of the chazzas local to me. If this carries on much longer I will start referring to it as the jazz emporium! I don’t have many jazz albums in my collection but I reckon its jazz section has doubled in the last few weeks. I know I have not been the only one snapping them up as they appear, and I have not always, if ever, been first to the fresh ones, so I can’t help wondering what I have missed. I’m happy anyway. At £1 an album I have taken a chance on quite a few of the albums and have had a about a 50% success rate on finding ones that grab me on first listen. II is also helping me expand my jazz knowledge.
I was aware of the Heath Brothers really only through For The Public which appeared on a 45 and was always a favourite of mine back in the 70s. On the strength of that I picked up a copy of their 1981 album Expressions Of Life at said “jazz emporium” recently. At the same time one of my “blind” purchases was Clifford Brown’s Brownie Eyes. I had not heard of Clifford Brown before; from the extensive sleeve notes I learnt that he was a very talented young trumpeter who, like a few others who played that instrument, tragically died young (in Brown’s case at 27 in a car accident). The notes also describe in some detail the tracks on the album – they are from various early 50s sessions and group lineups. The double bassist on almost all the tracks was Percy Heath, and Jimmy Heath also played tenor sax on one track.
Percy and Jimmy had started playing in the 40s. Soon after the Clifford Brown sessions captured on Brownie Eyes Percy Heath would be a core member of The Modern Jazz Quartet for many years. Jimmy Heath featured on many recordings on the great Riverside label, and played with many top names - including Milt Jackson and Art Farmer - in the 60s and into the 70s. In 1975 along with their younger brother Albert (“Tootie”) and guitarist Stanley Cowell they formed The Heath Brothers. With slightly varying line ups The Heath Brothers were together as a touring and recording group until 1983.
Here are two tracks form very much opposite ends of The Heath Brothers’ – especially Percy's – career.
(In which the Brothers lope down the path well trodden by the jazz fraternity in the 70s and early 80s i.e. the one that led to the disco. Mtume has production credit here. I can clearly picture the mirror ball slowly spinning around to this one).
(The Clifford Brown Sextet: Clifford, Gigi Gryce, Charlie Rouse, Art Blakey, John Lewis, and Percy Heath)