Monday, August 4, 2008

Caramoor Day Three: Heath Bar CRUNCH

Don't you wish Jimmy Heath wrote tunes and named them with stupid puns on his name like Lee Konitz does ("Subconscious-Lee," "Ice Cream Konitz")? It's just me? Well, alright. Either way, it makes a great title for PART TWO of my Day 3 coverage of Caramoor's annual jazz extravaganza. Jimmy Heath, the 82 year old saxophone wunderkind, took the stage about ten minutes after Aaron "cutie-pie" Diehl finished his set of precocious neo-stride piano. Heath, who played with Charlie Parker, was introduced as having played with all the greats, including, according to Jim Luce, Wynton Marsalis. I could go on for hours about how ridiculous it is to introduce Jimmy Heath as a guy who played with Wynton Marsalis as opposed to vice versa, but I'll spare you.
Heath, like Ahmad Jamal, the other eightyish monster at Caramoor this year, killed it. Diehl must have been going crazy about being stuck going before Jimmy, because Jimmy pulled- as I would like to call any sort of cutting by the Heath brothers, whether Jimmy, bassist Percy, or drummer Tootie- the HEATH BAR CRUNCH (I'll bet you didn't think I would tie the title in). The Heath Bar Crunch consisted of a quick one-two punch of relatively new tunes by Heath- an up tune, "For Percy," and then "Project S" ("'S' stands for swing, of course," said Jimmy), which featured a killin' solo by the octogenarian himself- and it was over. Nobody but some sort of ridiculously technically capable audience favorite youngster like Eldar (or, say, Michel Camilo) could possibly follow up Jimmy Heath.

And I didn't even mention Jimmy Heath's big band, which included Gary Smulyan. Yeah, you heard right, the Downbeat Critics Poll 2008 baritone saxophone player of the year was playing in Jimmy Heath's big band at Caramoor. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Heath's arrangements were killin', but still. What a bad-ass. In the middle of Smulyan's solo in "Sources Say," which as far as I could tell from Heath's description is some sort of searing indictment of George Bush's work as president, Heath started dancing. It was embarrassing, of course- 82 year old men shouldn't dance, EVER- but it was kind of fun to watch. Heath ended with an up-tempo rendition of his classic "Gingerbread Boy," which was made famous by Miles in the 60s. The audience at Caramoor gives everyone a standing ovation, but Heath deserved it.

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