from All About Jazz.com.
Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath is highly respected by his peers and by serious listeners, but he isn’t well known outside the jazz world in the way that Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane are. He played with those legends and many more. He formed The Heath Brothers in 1975 with his siblings, drummer Albert “Tootie Heath and bassist Percy Heath, and has penned numerous tunes that have become classics, including “CTA” and “Gingerbread Boy.” Like Gillespie before him, he reaches beyond jazz in his endless artistic search, having penned suites, compositions for string quartets and a symphonic work.
The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, under the dual directorships of drummer Clarence Acox and multiple reedman Michael Brockman, enticed Heath into their fold for the timeless and marvelous Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search Suite. It is an orchestral offering that leaps out of the speakers with a rich fanfare of gorgeous harmony and tight rhythmic zest. Then Heath solos, and proves himself—for those unfamiliar—a giant of melodic invention and improvisational energy; in his eighth decade, and still kickin’ it. For comparison’s sake, Heath the soloist is probably closest to a fellow under-sung tenor man, George Coleman—another all-too-brief Davis cohort. Both saxophonists stay firmly within the mainstream, with extraordinary intelligence, invention and no-holds-barred verve.
Besides Heath’s efforts, there is no shortage of premier soloing happening in the Seattle Repertory Orchestra. On the suite itself, Brockman wields an alto axe that cranks up the intensity a notch, giving way to a bright and shining trumpet turn by Jay Thomas. All this in the eight-plus minute “Part I.” It stays just as stellar in “Part III: Where It Started.” Heath, pianist Randy Halberstadt, the inimitable tenorist Hadley Caliman, and an especially inspired David Marriott, Jr. on trombone, all take things to the highest level of jazz improvisation.
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