Ted Heath

The Essential Collection

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British bandleader Ted Heath's huge legacy of accessible pop and jazz recordings has been trawled by numerous reissue labels and presented piecemeal in collections of both modest and mammoth proportions. While the chronological approach employed by Hep and Dutton Vocalion are useful for studying the evolution of this excellent band, modestly proportioned samplers produced by labels like ASV/Living Era, Jasmine, and Proper may suffice. For those who need to dig a little deeper with a larger number of tracks, The Essential Collection released by West End Records in 2006 is an excellent option. Its 53 titles are well-chosen and represent Heath's band at its best. One thing about Heath: he was uncommonly well-tuned to the pulse of both jazz and pop culture during the 1940s and ‘50s, and his band book reflected this awareness most wonderfully. In addition to every mid-century dance band leader's prerequisite knowledge of Tin Pan Alley pop songs, jazz standards, show tunes, and movie themes, Heath was well-versed in old-style traditional material by Kid Ory, Porter Steele, Jelly Roll Morton, and Shelton Brooks. His formative years as a sideman with Bert Ambrose during the "swing era" and a keen awareness of where jazz was heading after 1945 enabled him to handle material by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn; Tadd Dameron and Sy Oliver; Sir Charles Thompson and Illinois Jacquet; Tiny Bradshaw and Count Basie; Fats Waller and Woody Herman; Benny Goodman and Ziggy Elman; Erskine Hawkins and Julian Dash, and Lionel Hampton and Gerry Mulligan. The range of styles and breadth of influence speaks volumes about Heath's voracious appetite for catchy melodies and well-crafted compositions. This anthology could easily be confused with The Essential Ted Heath Collection, an 80-track set released by Castle Pulse in 2002. However you go about it, an evening with Ted Heath & His Music will almost always be gratifying for those who are susceptible to this kind of entertainment.

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