Edward Haydn Higgins (February 21, 1932 – August 31, 2009) was a jazz pianist, composer, and orchestrator.
Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Higgins initially studied privately with his mother. He started his professional career in Chicago, Illinois, while studying at the Northwestern University School of Music. An elegant and sophisticated pianist, his encyclopedic harmonic approach and wide range of his repertory made him one of the most distinctive jazz pianists to come out of Chicago, gaining the respect of local and visiting musicians for his notable mastery of the instrument. Higgins also had the unusual ability to sound equally persuasive in a broad span of music, whether he was playing traditional swing, exciting bebop or reflexive ballads, providing the tone and stylistic flavor of each styles, as both a soloist and as accompanist.
For more than two decades Higgins worked at some of Chicago’s most prestigious jazz clubs, including the Brass Rail, Preview Lounge, Blue Note, Cloister Inn and Jazz, Ltd. His longest and most memorable tenure was at the long gone London House, where he led his jazz trio from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, playing opposite jazz stars of this period, including Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing, among others. Later, Higgins said the opportunities to play jazz music with Coleman Hawkins and Oscar Peterson were unforgettable moments. Higgins’ time spent at the London House Restaurant was with bassist Richard Evans and drummer Marshall Thompson. Higgins also worked for Chess Records as a producer.
During his stay in Chicago, Higgins also recorded a significant number of albums under his auspices and many more as a sideman with a wide variety of musicians, ranging in style from tenor saxophonists Hawkins to Sonny Stitt to Wayne Shorter; trumpeters Bobby Lewis to Harry Edison to Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard; and trombonists Jack Teagarden to Al Grey. His versatility was captured on stage and records, backing up singers and leading his own projects as both pianist and orchestrator, working in every jazz circle from dixieland to modal styles. Although he opted to decline the offer, Higgins was asked at one point by Art Blakey to join the seminal hard bop quintet, The Jazz Messengers.
In 1970, Higgins moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and began spending winters in Florida and summers on Cape Cod, where he played in local clubs. Since the early 1980s, he traveled widely on the jazz festival circuit and performed frequently in Europe and Japan. His releases on the Japanese Venus label earned him number one in jazz sales on more than one album. After that, Higgins played his music mainly in East Asia including Japan and South Korea. During his career in East Asia, Higgins formed a successful trio with Joe Ascione (drums), and Jay Leonhart (bass).
In 1988, Higgins and jazz singer and pianist Meredith d’Ambrosio were married and became a popular team at clubs and festivals, as well as recording for Sunnyside Records. In 2009, dates in Japan and Korea were on his calendar of upcoming concerts, which were suspended due to a long illness.
Higgins died in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 77.
Eddie Higgins’s delicate tone and conception were often compared to those of Bill Evans, one of the most influential and successful jazz pianists. He mostly played bop and mainstream jazz music throughout his career. Higgins was at home playing melodies with swing-like feeling. His melodies had groove and swing-feeling without being too superfluous. Such swing-feeling of Eddie Higgins was also often compared to those of Oscar Peterson and Nat King Cole. (by wikipedia)
This is only the second product review I have ever written, and it is the consistent quality of this CD that prompts me to write an enthusiastic endorsement. While the music is not groundbreaking in the least, it is a most solid and satisfying set of traditional Christmas tunes, the lion’s share of which are secular. I am very much a Jazz Guy, and my tastes gravitate towards the straight-ahead jazz camp, with the piano trio as featured here being perhaps my favorite jazz ensemble. This CD falls squarely in that straight-ahead camp, without being the least bit square. On each tune, you will hear the melody clearly and simply stated, followed by an improvisational interlude, then back he goes to the melody to close out. Though it sounds formulaic and predictable, it most certainly is not, predictability being the mark of most inferior jazz. And I would agree that this is a CD that could be thoroughly enjoyed by someone who claims to hate jazz; the straight-ahead jazz fan will be ecstatic with it!! I am a last-minute Christmas shopper, with Christmas Eve day being my favorite shopping day. That shopping pattern makes me feel pretty under-the-gun, once my shopping mojo kicks in.
If I were at Nordstrom, Christmas Eve day, focused and in my shopping groove/crunch mode, and I heard Eddie Higgins (may he rest in peace) playing Christmas tunes on the Nordstrom grand piano, I would stop and listen for an hour or so, this versus the tune-and-a-half listen I would typically give a lesser player. This may sound like faint praise, but it does accurately reflect my feelings about and affection for this CD. I am stingy with stars, so that fifth star is hard to pry out of me — well deserved here, however, and, again, I do endorse this CD without reservation — great Christmas music, from the first note to the last! Excellent support/work from Jay Leonhart on bass and Joe Ascione on drums, as well. Terrific!! (written by an amazon customer called Zimmerman)
Joe Ascione (drums)
Eddie Higgins (piano)
Jay Leonhart (bass)
01. Let It Snow (Cahn/Styne) 3.41
02. Christmas Song (Tormé) 5.15
03. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Gannon/Kent) 4.29
04. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional) 4.35
05. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Coots/Gillespie) 3.34
06. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Traditional) 4.49
07. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Blane) 4.19
08. The Christmas Waltz (Cahn/Styne) 3.25
09. White Christmas (Berlin) 4.43
10. Winter Wonderland (Bernard) 6.16
11. Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly (Traditional) 3.42
12. Sleight Ride (Anderson) 3.48