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Jimmy Heath approaches the eight tracks on 'Love Letter' with keen sensitivity / THE REHEARSAL STUDIO

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Jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath died this past January 19 at the age of 93. That means that he lived through just about every genre of twentieth-century jazz. His personal involvement in making jazz can be traced back to performances with both Howard McGhee and Dizzy Gillespie.

A little over a week ago Verve released his final album entitled Love Letter. There are only eight tracks, all of which are ballad classics, including songs written by Billie Holiday, Mal Waldron, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, and Gordon Parks (who is probably better known for his work in photography and film). Heath's rhythm section includes Kenny Barron on piano, David Wong on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. For some tracks the combo is augmented by Russell Malone on guitar and/or Monte Croft on vibraphone.

The album also features three "special guests." Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis joins Heath for a duo account of Dorham's "La Mesha." In addition two of the leading vocalists of the current century join the group. Both of them sing songs by Parks, "Left Alone" presented by Cécile McLorin Salvant and Gregory Porter delivering "Don't Misunderstand."

The focus of listening deserves to be centered on Heath himself. While there is no question that Heath approaches these eight tracks with keen sensitivity to the tunes themselves, there is nothing intellectual about the foundational rhetoric.

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