|The Great Billy Higgins|
However, Higgins played on many of the pivotal Ornette Coleman recordings, as well as tons of classic Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, and Hank Mobley recordings. Lee Morgan said of Higgins, "He never overplays, but you always know he's there." Higgins' ride cymbal beat is fairly identifiable: it's more straight in the eighth notes than somebody like Jimmy Cobb or Ben Riley(two other underrated drummers in the jazz edumacational world).
My favorite Billy Higgins appearances are the following odd mix: Herbie Hancock's "Takin' Off", Charles Lloyd's "Hyperion With Higgins", Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder", John Scofield's "Works For Me", and of course any of the Eastern Rebellion stuff.(I like the stuff with George Coleman and Bob Berg.)
|Cedar Walton, WITH a shirt on....|
Two things that were really amazing about that session (at least concerning Higgins. What was also amazing was when the producer of the recording, John Clayton, during a break in the action, picked up Richie Goods bass and flawlessly fired off the double bass excerpt from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Impressive, to say the least). One was that Higgins never looked at the charts of Walton's arrangements, but after one run through, had all the hits nailed. I suppose all those years of playing with Walton gave Higgins a sense of where the music will most likely go. I suppose musicians who play together for 30 years are like an old married couple, finishing each other's sentences.....
The other thing that was amazing to me was when Higgins started singing. Again, during a break, I was messing around with Cedar Walton's waltz entitled "Clockwise". Higgins ran over to the piano and started singing these marvelous lyrics, very operatically, and doing an elegant dance around the studio. I was really impressed. I asked Higgins, " Who wrote those amazing lyrics?" He replied, " I did. Just now....."
Here's an interview with Higgins, who passed all too young while waiting for a liver transplant:
And here's a clip of Higgins with Pat Metheny: