Monday, January 19, 2015

Billy's best

Here's some more essential Billy Higgins listening for you. I hesitate to declare anything the best— because a) the man played on over 700 albums, of which I have been exposed to, what, 5-7%? And b) what I know about “best”? But these are the records that were most influential to me. He's also on multiple albums— major works— with Cedar Walton, Mal Waldron, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Clifford Jordan, Eddie Harris, Charles Lloyd, and many others— enough that any two players might have completely different lists of favorites.

Ornette Coleman — Change of the Century
The Shape of Jazz To Come is more famous, but this one's my favorite of his records with Ornette. This is probably the track of his career, for me:

Don Cherry — Brown Rice
I've loved this since I found a derelict vinyl copy of it in the early 90s; for a long time it was as out of fashion as macramé. Charlie Haden is on this, and the next few...

Don Cherry — Art Deco
Lots of great medium tempo swinging here— for me this is kind of the record for modern bop drumming.

More after the break:

Pat Metheny — Rejoicing
With Charlie Haden again. Maybe Metheny's best record ever, even though it is said he wasn't wild about it...

Joshua Redman — Wish
Classic, “high” Billy Higgins, with Haden, and Pat Metheny. I think I was working on a damn boat when this band came through Portland.

Dexter Gordon  — Go
Dexter's album A Swingin' Affair was recorded at the same time, and is also great.

Lee Morgan — The Rumproller
Higgins was on a ton of Blue Note recordings in the 60s; apparently he lost his cabaret card, and was able to work in clubs in New York at that time, and he ended up doing a lot of studio work. He's on a lot of other things with Lee Morgan; this is my favorite of the ones I've heard.

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