by Mike Corrigan
Jimmy Heath has enjoyed a 50-year music career in which he's shared the performance stage with everyone that matters -- from Diz to Monk to Coltrane to Davis. He's also a devoted educator and has conducted workshops and clinics for jazz students all over the world. Yet the tenor saxophonist considers himself a perennial student. This Saturday night at Whitworth College's Cowles Auditorium, performer, composer, arranger and student Heath will join the celebrated Whitworth College Jazz Ensemble for an evening of jazz education and illumination. In addition to the Saturday night performance, Jimmy Heath will conduct a free saxophone clinic for Whitworth students and the general public on Friday, Nov. 8, at 5:15 pm in Whitworth's Music Building Recital Hall.
Jimmy Heath grew up in Philadelphia during the 1940s with musical brothers Percy and Tootie. Though raised in the Big Band era, his greatest influence was to be Charlie Parker, the alto saxophonist who -- together with bandleader Dizzy Gillespie -- would turn the jazz world on its collective ear by ushering in bebop. In emulation of his idol, Heath took up the alto sax (his Parker-esque phrasing would earn him the nickname "Little Bird"). He started his own big band in 1946 with sidemen John Coltrane and Benny Golson and played for a year with Howard McGhee before switching to tenor and joining Gillespie's band in 1951.
Though greatly influenced by Parker, Heath quickly established himself as a true original with a distinctive, fluid style and a talent for improvisation. As a writer, he has more than 100 compositions to his credit, many of which have been recorded by other artists and a few (such as "C.T.A" and "Gingerbread Boy") that have achieved immortality as jazz standards. During the 1960s, he led various versions of his own band and put out an impressive string of albums. In 1975, Heath teamed up with siblings Percy and Tootie (on bass and drums, respectively) and pianist Stanley Cowell to form the Heath Brothers. The group has twice been nominated for a Grammy Award -- once in 1980 for its Columbia recording Live at the Public Theatre and again for its 1993 Verve album, Little Man Big Man.
Talented, hip and intelligent, Heath at 76 remains (as Miles Davis once put it) "one of the thoroughbreds" -- a vibrant performer and class act all the way.
All Kinds of Folks
"Folk is kind of a loose term," chuckles Sylvia Gobel, the chairwoman of Spokane Folklore Society's 2002 Fall Folk Festival. "We have bluegrass, we have Irish, we have blues, we have Japanese drumming, we have West African drumming and we have several groups performing Middle Eastern dance. We have Vietnamese dance and some Native American music. We have quite a variety. But it's generally traditional or ethnic-type folk music."
Uniting all of these cultural sounds -- and quite a few more -- are the five different performing spaces running almost continually at this Saturday's festival at Glover Middle School.
"We have tons of talented folk musicians in the community, but they don't get much opportunity to perform," Gobel says. "Or if they do, it's in small groups or in small venues with little or no publicity. But they're out there." Consequently, Saturday's lineup freely mixes sounds from some of the region's most recognized musical names -- Sidhe, La Rae Wiley, the Celtic Nots and Dan Maher -- with more unfamiliar names from both the Inland Northwest and the coast.
"There is also children's entertainment in one room and crafts in another, along with workshops for people who want to interact rather than just watch," explains Gobel. "At any given hour, there are four or five things to choose from. If you walk into one of the rooms and decide that that's not what you want to do, you just wander to the next room. There's a lot of movement and it's free flowing."
If the official venues and scheduled performances aren't exactly what festival-goers are looking for, Gobel says that there will be a number of "jamming rooms" available -- spaces in which musicians, whether they're scheduled to play during the festival or have just brought their instruments along, are free to get together and play. "Musicians like to hang out with other musicians and pick up new things," she says.
It turns out that Bob Dylan was right all along when he told us that the answer was blowing in the wind: "Much of folk music is passed on orally," Gobel says, "and a lot of folk musicians learn by ear." Just like their audiences. --Marty Demarest
Samba, Cathedral-Style -- Looking for a fun way to put some heat into your otherwise frigid weekend plans? I've got three words for you: Samba. Bossa Nova. Benefit. This Friday night, join Spokane's premiere Brazilian jazz combo, Desafinado, for an evening of sizzling Latin sounds at St. John's Cathedral. The concert will benefit the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which works to feed and shelter homeless families in our area. Now if giving to a worthy cause while thrilling to the sounds of some of Spokane's finest jazz groups doesn't warm the cockles of your being, I don't know what will.
Interfaith Hospitality Network represents more than 30 Spokane-area churches of various denominations whose leaders set aside their doctrinal differences to work together to help families in need. Friday night's concert is actually the third in a series of Concerts for the Hungry being sponsored by St. John's Cathedral. The first concert raised over $4,500 for Habitat for Humanity. The second raised over $5,000 for Catholic Charities.
If you're not familiar with the evening's featured band, Desafinado, it's high time you were acquainted. Each member of this highly professional nine-piece unit is a recognized and respected member of Spokane's jazz community, and they are devoted to performing the best music of the Brazilian jazz masters in an authentic manner. Led by saxophonist Gary Edighoffer and flute and sax player Pam Meyer, the rest of the squad is fleshed out with Laura Landsberg (vocals) Andrew Plamondon (trumpet, flugelhorn), Dave Stults (trombone), Paul Landsberg (guitar), Eugene Jablonsky (bass), Paul Raymond (percussion) and Rick Westrick (drums). Even though the group has a designated percussionist, everyone, in addition to their designated roles, plays some sort of rhythm instrument. Yes, the beat is a prominent feature of Desafinado's music. But with all those horns -- not to mention the fine vocal skills of Landsberg -- you can bet the melodies will be soaring as well.