Album Review: LOVE LETTER (Jimmy Heath on Verve)

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by Tony Frankel on August 4, 2020



The beloved tenor saxophonist and composer Jimmy Heath died on January 19, 2020 at 93. Only a few weeks before, he wound up production on his final album, capping an astounding 76 years as a pro jazz musician. Love Letter is his posthumous wonderment. This collection of ballads is dreamy, scrumptious, masterful, grounded, introspective and fresh. His mellow-but-assured tone and silky soulful serenades are indeed a love letter — not just to his listeners, but to his enormous career.

In addition to original material, Love Letter is the jazz ambassador’s beautiful take on seminal ballads, including songs written by Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, and Kenny Dorham. Recorded in New York during the 48 hours preceding Jimmy’s 93rd birthday, and two more a month later in Atlanta, Jimmy presided over a brilliant cast of colleagues and friends. Propelling the album forward is a multi-generational all-star unit, including NEA Jazz Master pianist Kenny Barron, poll-winning guitarist Russell Malone, soulful vibraphone veteran Monte Croft, New York first-call bassist David Wong, and all-world drummer Lewis Nash. Augmenting the group on separate tracks are 21st-century vocal superstars Gregory Porter and C├ęcile McLorin Salvant, and trumpet icon Wynton Marsalis.

photos by Carol Friedman

Love Letter
Jimmy Heath
Verve | 8 tracks | 44:32
released July 17, 2020
available at Amazon and iTunes

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