Percy Heath: Smilin’ Billy Suite part I

28 Apr

Remembering bassist/cellist Percy Heath on the day of his passing in 2005.

Heath was past 80 when he released his first album as a leader, but he never procrastinated. Rather, he spent the bulk of his career with the Modern Jazz Quartet, or playing with brothers Jimmy (saxophone) and Albert (drummer) in the Heath Brothers Band. Few families have contributed so much to the genre of jazz as have the Heaths.

Born in 1923, Heath served with and was trained as a Tuskegee airman during World War II, but saw no combat.

When not carrying his instrument, he carried another non-musical one: the fishing rod. From Peter Keepnews’ New York Times obit: ”I made a living,” he once said, ”to go fishing.”

From John Fordham’s obit of Percy Heath in the Guardian (at “Though his compositions for (the Heath Brothers) band were largely unremarkable, his solo playing was the diametric opposite . . . his improvisations became miniature masterpieces of low-register lyricism.”

And that first album (A Love Song) as a leader? It received rave reviews.  From John Kelman at “A Love Song finally places Heath, a performer who has literally influenced generations of bassists, front-and-centre.”

Heath was 81 when he died of cancer.



One Response to “Percy Heath: Smilin’ Billy Suite part I”


  1. សុខភាពមាត់ធ្មេញ « 2Khmer - July 10, 2011

    […] Percy Heath: Smilin’ Billy Suite part I ( […]

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