Reference: FSRCD 976
Bar code: 8427328609760
Looking for a more relaxed jazz scene, veteran swing and bebop drummer J.C. Heard (1917-1988) moved from NYC to Los Angeles in 1964, carrying his suitcase and the kind of assuredness that comes only from a lifetime of varied experience. Upon his arrival, bassist Howard Rumsey—who had been guiding the Lighthouse club’s booking policies since 1949—offered Heard a job, and the drummer put together a fine quintet to play alternating with the house band.
In these live performances of Heard’s group, we breathe an atmosphere of total improvisation and spirited blowing, and by the sound of it, its members couldn't have been having a better time. On the instrumental level, Bill Perkins plays tenor and baritone saxophone with great authority and clarity brought on by his exemplary cleanness of attack and perfect volume control. On guitar, the imagination of Joe Pass and his sense of structure give his up-tempo solos a swinging flow, an effective continuity with a light touch that is pure musical thought. Frank Strazzeri, a sadly underappreciated pianist, proves he was a valuable asset, playing as a comper and a soloist with equal proficiency. On bass, a young Jim Hughart lays more than capable support, while the high level drumming of leader J.C. Heard—a real swinger—is the propelling force behind the group. The spirit is there from the start through every performance and the musicians just kept right on playing with seemingly unending energy.
These recordings demonstrate the creativity and talent of these inspired jazzmen, the only example we have of this J.C. Heard group at work.
"Perk was always a most inventive soloist, never content with the status quo. His improvisations here are continuous, hastening to leave the melody, as in There Will Never Be. Here his Lestorian persona was still palpable. Later, when he felt the need to work from Rollins and Coltrane, his fans were unsettled and many tuned away from him.
He’s in good company here, for Joe Pass never picked up the guitar without shedding a load of brilliant and intricate improvisations. Joe swung without thinking and most people, on reflection, would suggest that he was one of the greatest jazz guitarists ever, to say nothing of the most tasteful. His solo feature on Sometime Ago is truly beautiful.
My ears were opened to Strazzeri when he appeared on stage unannounced at Nice and dazzled the audience with his amazing work. He’s a modest man who, when I spoke to him after that performance, apologised to me for the fact that he wasn’t better known. He was with Woody briefly in 1959 and worked often as a house pianist, at Donte’s for example, and here at the Lighthouse. He was also associated often with Perk and – breathe it quietly – was Elvis Presley’s pianist during the 70s. His sparse and uncluttered bop style is heard throughout with a particularly nice solo on J C’s Tune.
Oliver Nelson’s Don’t Stand Up is a happy belter for everyone, and J C closes the album with the mambo. Perk wails on this one, Pass is transcendental and one can indulge the length of the dextrous and non-bombastic drum solo on the grounds that J C too is not just a tasteful accompanist, but an athletic soloist. This and J C’s tune are good compositions by the drummer, who was also a tasteful player.
A fine confirmation that the great West Coast era extended beyond the 50s."
Steve Voce (May 4, 2019)
"En 1964, James Charles Heard, laissant New York pour les douceurs du Pacifique, posait les suitcases de sa batterie à Los Angeles où il fut accueilli à bras ouverts par le contrebassiste Howard Rumsey, alors programmateur du fameux Lighthouse Jazz Club depuis de nombreuses années. Fort de sa longue expérience (il approchait la cinquantaine et avait côtoyé aussi bien les vétérans des années 1930 que les bebopers), le batteur y forma un quintette où le swing et l’improvisation étaient les deux valeurs cardinales Bill Perkins était au ténor, lui qui avait fait ses classes chez Woody Herman et Stan Kenton avant de devenir un incontournable de la scène west coast (c’est l’occasion de réécouter “The Brothers” avec Al Cohn et Richie Kamuca). Il montre ici toute sa virtuosité dans un unisson époustouflant avec Joe Pass, monstre éternel de la guitare, sur un thème d’Oliver Nelson. Quant à Frank Strazzeri, pianiste sous-estimé, et Jim Hughart, jeune bassiste débarquant lui aussi à L.A. fort de la protection de Ray Brown, ils constituaient avec Heard la rythmique groovy que voulait le batteur. Energie folle, swing terrible, imagination habitant les solistes, tout est là dans ce qui est le seul témoignage sonore de ce groupe de furieux publié à ce jour."
Philippe Vincent (Mai, 2019)
"Back in the 1960s, if you lived in Los Angeles, the jazz world was your oyster, as you had a surfeit of clubs in which to spend the evening to take in the modern sounds. One of the most legendary was The Lighthouse, home of the birth of what became known as “West Coast Jazz” and the stage for stars including Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Shelly Manne and bands like the one co-lead by the team of drummer J.C. Heard and saxist Bill Perkins which included the legendary guitarist Joe Pass as well as Jim Hughart/b and Frank Strazzeri to fill out the rhythm section for this recoding.
Perkins was the personification of the warm toned tenor that imbibed the well of Lester Young. He is rich and breathy on the sleek “Bob’s Blues” and bops with delight on “Don’t Stand Up.” His rich lyricism is gorgeous on an incomplete take of “There Will Never Be Another You” while on bariton sax he grooves to a shuffle on a swinging “Blues In Hoss’ Flat.” Pass is rapid fire ready as he simmers with Heard on the fiery “Cute” and is given a rich solo moment on a lovely “Sometime Ago.” The team stretches out as Heard lets the sparks fly on “Mambo-Bop” while Hughart and Strazzeri push and pull on a velvety “Passion Flower.” All that’s missing is the two drink minimum.
The excellent liner notes give impressive background on the musicians, the club and the vibe of the LA jazz scene during the swinging 60s."
George W. Harris (March 1, 2019)
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