Organist Bill Heid is clearly an extremely talented, extroverted, and soulful musician who is equally adept at playing straight blues, swinging bop-influenced music, and the soul-jazz he grew up with in his native Pittsburgh. Living in Detroit for a number of years has also affected his playing in a more progressive manner. This recording, with the off-putting title This Is My Rifle, is not at all about shooting, killing, or war, though the battleground of the American jazz life is a constant theme. Instead, his weapon is the B-3, and his salvos are based in pure expressionism, based on his love for the legendary keyboardist Jimmy Smith, and in this case more in tune with the spacious and sidereal organist Larry Young. With Metro Detroit tenor saxophonist Scott Peterson and Lansing-based drummer Randy Gelispie, Heid is able to stretch themes, deepen hidden meanings, display all of the facets of his immense talent, and pay proper homage to his heroes and certain aspects of his urban and global life. Of the straighter tunes, "Lawrence of Newark" could easily have come from Larry Young's Blue Note album Unity, with its easy swing and 12-bar blues core. In a hard bop notion, "Hakkyo" (translated from Japanese as "insane") sports a clean line with some nutty start-stop flourishes, played expertly. The title cut paraphrases Young's penchant for combining Latin and bop parcels with Peterson's tenor sax suggesting Joe Henderson, while "Nikushima" (meaning "hatred") sports the more atmospheric and legato style of Young as heard in his later years. "Nibbling" is a complex thing in a 3/4 beat, with Heid and Peterson playing tricky lines together in an unfathomable manner, and they really go to town on the hard waltz "No Restraint." Then there's an uptown tribute to Jimmy Smith and Heid's Welsh Corgi dog during "She's from Wales," which bears close resemblance to "Got My Mojo Working," while a ballad homage to Heid's other idol, Don Patterson, is heartwarmingly rendered during "I Remember Don." Peterson's sax sound is just slightly tart, while Gelispie knows this type of material backwards and forwards -- after all, he was an important member of the organ and jazz combos of Sonny Stitt in the last decade of Stitt's life. Heid is an unbelievable musician, full of chops, invention, street smarts, and risk-taking -- nay death-defying -- musical acrobatics. He's hard to be denied genius status, as proven on this excellent CD, long overdue.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos