Ted Heath

The Big Ones/Satin, Saxes and Bouncing Brass

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This two-fer assembles two sought-after if vastly different Ted Heath LPs from 1970 and 1963 -- even if the pairing makes little sense, their reissue on CD is still cause for celebration. The posthumously released The Big Ones captures Heath at the peak of his alchemical powers, transforming the biggest chart hits of the flower-power era to create singularly outré space age jazz far freakier than anything produced under the influence of psychedelics. Heath's ingenious arrangements seem to reinvent these familiar pop songs from within, often abandoning the melody to seize on a stray idea or subtle nuance -- for example, his rendition of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" pays little attention to the song's legendary guitar riff while creating space for a series of unbelievably fierce drum breaks, while the Beatles' "Get Back" goes off in more directions than a group of escaped mental patients, only occasionally crossing paths with Paul McCartney's indelible melody. Although as smooth and rich as its title portends, Satin, Saxes and Bouncing Brass almost heralded the end of Heath's recording career -- at first he refused to even consider label execs' idea of adding strings to his big-band jazz sound, and capitulated only after London Records dropped him from its roster. The completed album is in large part a showcase for the gifted arranger John Keating, whose lush yet nuanced charts successfully add the orchestral flourishes London heads sought while retaining the dynamic jazz sound of past Heath efforts. In fact, Keating's horn arrangements are particularly inventive, as if compensating for their loss of face time -- warhorses like "Ebb Tide," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," and "Moonlight Serenade" breathe new life in these elegant, contoured environs.

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