TED HEATH & HIS MUSIC 'So Easy'
Original 1948-1952 Recordings
Ted Heath not only survived the so-called \Big Band Era" -he prolonged it. Along withhis contemporaries such as Ellington, Basie, Brown and Herman, he continued hisinternational popularity through concerts and recordings, even though the"dance band" per se had lost its widespread appeal and venues. In fact, all of those mentioned hadbeen leaders for ten-or-more years before Heath started his own band in 1945.
He was born Edward Heath in Wandsworth, a section of London,in 1902. He reportedly was atrombone prodigy and was busking with his instrument while still very young.
As early as 1936 the Heath trombone was already anubiquitous presence in the British dance bands. In that year, Hilton Schleman, in his book Rhythm on Record,cited Heath's participation as a sideman-arranger in the combinations ofAmbrose, Lew Davis, Bert Firman, The Four Bright Sparks, Jack Hylton, HowardJacobs, Syd Lipton, The Rhythm Rascals, and Jay Wilbur.
During WWII he played with Geraldo's radio band, and then in1945 - when the dance band industry was beset with competition from new formsof musical entertainment and TV - he formed a band which rose to immensesuccess against the odds, actually prolonging the popularity of the full danceunit, especially in Great Britain.
During the band's existence it was very popular on radio andfor its many personal appearances. Frequent gigs during the 1950s were its concerts at London'sPalladium. It even made it acrossthe Atlantic to make two tours of the US, which were unusual in that the entirecombination was present. Previously, Jack Hylton and Ray Noble were compelled to use Americanmusicians. In 1948, the Heath bandcommenced releasing recordings on the London label, a subsidiary of BritishDecca, which sold very well in the States. Particularly appealing were those LPs which presented asingle composer's works, i.e., "Kern for Moderns"; "Rodgers for Moderns"; etc.
Critically listening to this compilation of Ted Heath andhis Music, one recalls the sounds of the very best American swing bands: Tommy Dorsey, Les Brown, Glenn Miller,Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, and many others. But the arrangements do not copy, but rather hint - orembellish - by creating a melange of sounds and styles. Looking at the list of songs, even atrue swing band aficionado cannot predict how a particular selection will soundfrom its title.
Here are some instances. That Heath was a trombone expert shows in the marveloustrombone choir-effect which was a Tommy Dorsey specialty. Les Brown's arrangement style isrepresented by the full-range unison sound each instrumental section in-turndisplays. Occasionally GlennMiller's special colouring of the woodwinds, with the clarinet doubling abovethe saxophones, can be heard. Dynamics were Kenton's specialty: Heath employs them liberally. And who could forget Jimmy Dorsey'stasteful use of the solo alto saxophone, which Heath very frequently uses. And there are also whimsical touches tosome pieces.
The songs on this album range from classic pop ballads toup-tempo swingers and also include rhythm and mood numbers composed for concertpresentation.
For example, the opening and closing tracks show inspirationfrom earlier Glenn Miller recordings. Blue Skies March is reminiscent of Miller's quasi-martial arrangement of"St Louis Blues". The closer,Colonel Bogey (featured in themovie Bridge on the River Kwai), again evokes Miller in style and tempo: thistime "American Patrol". OtherMilleresque moments include the woodwinds' voicing on the melody of With a Songin my Heart (Track 2) and the whimsical co-option of Miller's introduction to"Chattanooga Choo-Choo" for Heath's own composition Night Train to Scotland(Track 3).
And speaking of whimsy, note the several counter-melodies inBlue Skies March which are quoted from other compositions such as "StormyWeather".
Heath also was fortunate to have exceptional section leaderswho could impart strong solos. MySilent Love (Track 8) is indeed reminiscent of Harry James especially in thefirst chorus. Harlem Nocturne(Track 6) contains passages which resemble Jimmy Dorsey's alto saxophone solos.
Sidewalks of Cuba (Track 9) is treated unlike itsLatin-sounding title, recalling the stylings of Stan Kenton, or perhaps, WoodyHerman.
Button Up Your Overcoat (Track 12) is pure Les Brown - atleast in the first chorus - and invokes Brown's arrangement of "Back in YourOwn Backyard", a contemporary 1920s composition.
Compositions, likely intended for concert presentation, arerepresented by Roumanian Roundabout and Obsession (Tracks 14 and 19), amongothers.
Heath passed away in 1969, but his band survived - likeBasie, Kenton, Miller, Brown, etc. - in various incarnations: the so-called"ghost bands". In fact, many ofHeath's original musicians gathered together to re-create "His Music" into the21st Century.
Paul Roth, 2003
Hilton R.Schleman, Rhythm on Record, Melody Maker Ltd.,London, 1936.
Roger D. Kinkle, The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Musicand Jazz 1900-1950, Arlington House, New Rochelle, NY, 1974.
The Big Bands Database Plus
Paul Roth, a Florida-based musicologist-archivist,specializes in the dance band culture, especially the American and Britishcombinations of the 1930s. Hispersonal archive includes over 25,000 selections many of which are on his7,000-or-so 78s. He produced andhosted "big band" shows on Washington, DC radio in the 1980s and on Floridaradio and TV in the 1990s. Helectures on the history of the popular song and is currently writing a seriesof essays, which he hopes to publish as a book on the "commercial" danceband. To this end he has beentaping interviews with bandleaders, vocalists, etc. for over twenty years. Roth is a retired engineer andacademician. He is also an amateurwoodwind player.