Jimmy Heath - The Quota
Jun 26, 2020
The History of the Albums - n° 173

It's only been three days since I wrote a jazz column. Might as well be an eternity for me. A torture that had to be broken. So what could be better than a little known jazz artist, rather underestimated, who offers us some little Hard bop, including the album The Quota that we will analyze today. [Drumroll] I'm chanting loud and clear: Jimmy Heath. Who furthermore left us, disappearing in January of this year... Here's another example of a late 50s / early 60s Hard bop jazzman who can be categorized as an outsider of the current that was still very trendy and omnipresent at the time. You know, these artists in the shadow of show-business, which the specialist and absolute jazz lover know. Yet Jimmy comes from a family of rather well-known musicians/artists, notably his older brother Percy Heath who is known for having worked with the best like Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk, or his younger brother Albert who is really less known to him. There are 2 important aspects that characterize Jimmy Heath, first of all his saxophone playing, rich in solo and emotion. And then there is his composer, arranger and leader side which is quite honorable.

A native of Philadelphia and born in 1926, Jimmy Heath had a remarkable career spanning almost six decades. He worked mainly in the bop niche, from Hard Bop to Post-Bop, including Jazz Fusion. He is also known as a leader or member of the Big Band, a group he was particularly fond of. As I told you before, the Heaths were a family of musicians, parents and siblings. Since he was very young, he logically followed and participated in the family passion. The legend and some "official" credits say that he wrote and arranged as early as 1939, at the age of 13, for example on Bob Crosby's The Little Red Fox. However I doubt it very much, there may be confusion with a person of the same name or his father or older brother Percy. In reality, even if he started to perform in the 40's with Nat Towles, it's mostly after the war and more precisely in 1948 that his career started by working for Howard McGhee, Kenny Clarke and then with Dizzy Gillespie. Jimmy Heath draws his inspiration from bebop legends and Big Bands. He was destined for a great career and success, most notably working for Miles Davis, yet his heroin addiction and second job as a drug dealer earned him several years in prison

Despite the difficulty, he was able to bounce back after his release from prison. He had the advantage of having experience, talent and still a good relationship in the jazz networks (Miles Davis, Nat Adderley, Kenny Dorhan will give him a chance, or Milt Jackson with whom he will associate). Whatever the explanations, Jimmy Heath proved by his music that his career couldn't stop there. Instead, he rolled up his sleeves, got down to work and let his talent speak for itself. The Quota album is proof of that. After 2 first good albums, The Thumper and Really Big! in which he made his adjustments and fine-tuning, accompanied by great teams, it's again at Riverside for whom the third album was recorded. Accompanied by Freddie Hubbard, his 2 brothers Percy and Albert, Julius Watkins and Cedar Walton, a sixtet composition, the album The Quota was recorded on 2 dates in April 1961. Although it is pure hard bop, The Quota is distinguished by the playing of its leader, who establishes its origins and the sounds of its region. Jimmy Heath is very diligent, leading the dance, comfortably supported, letting himself indulge in his magestic solos, without ever falling into a too energetic hard bop. One even feels almost a kind of minimalism in his interpretation as much as in his compositions
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