Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Nov. 15 & 19

I remember going to the Top of the Gate one Sunday or Monday night in the ‘70s and waiting for the band to come in. When they did, Billy Higgins found that all the club was providing in the way of a drumset was a bass drum with no pedal, a 12×8 hanging tom-tom, and one cymbal stand. Fortunately Higgins had brought a cymbal. The band was a quintet or a sextet, and without apparent special effort, Billy Higgins provided it with a wealth of buoyant, ebullient swing throughout the two sets I stayed for. Nothing was missing. I don’t think he even kicked the bass drum for punctuation. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that this week’s Updoc—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Village Gate time—is a Billy Higgins show, because I’m mostly indulging, as a chill infests the air with winter, in what may be the last of my autumnal Brahms obsession, but you’ll probably enjoy hearing Higgins play a series of duets with Charles Lloyd. Nasheet Waits posted a piece listing ten favorite Higgins cuts on Mosaic Records’ website and you’ll probably enjoy that too. Smiling Billy, Mr. Joy. I used to see you most often with Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean’s band, and when, at the age of fifteen, I ran into you sitting in at a tiny Village joint, you were friendly to the kid who gushed about how wonderful your playing was. My feeling and appreciation of what you had and gave freely have only deepened since.BillyHiggins

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