PERCY HEARTH: A rememberance of …..

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R. J Deluke writes .....

This article was originally published at All About Jazz in May 2005.

Percy Heath could play the hell out of that big contrabass.

Played it for more than half a century. With Bird and Miles and Diz and 'Trane and Brownie and the venerable Modern Jazz Quartet and on and on. And if you're reading this you know that already, probably. He played in dumps; he played R&B. Played for next to nothing. But he also played in tuxedos with his great friends John Lewis, Milt Jackson and Connie Kay in stunning concert halls all over the world. And held down the bottom with his brothers Tootie and Jimmy in the fun and classy band that bore their Heath Brothers name.

I didn't know him well, but I bet none of the above circumstances ever changed him. Percy Heath will be missed for his impeccable beat and his big, warm sound. But he'll be missed because he was as warm in soul and spirit as the tone the man summoned from the wood he caressed and the strings he thumped on stage. Big hearted and generous and gentle. And genuine. I can see him on stage, eyes closed, big grin. Doin' it! I can hear that solo on "Bags Groove" from The Modern Jazz Quartet: The Last Concert.

I met Percy Heath at length on a cold afternoon in January 2004 at New York City's Blue Note nightclub, a few hours before the Heath Brothers were to take the stage, sharing a bill with the great Hank Jones and his trio. We .....

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