Verve Records has released “Con Alma,” a song from the last album the saxophonist Jimmy Heath ever recorded.
Heath completed the album Love Letter just a month prior to his death in January of natural causes. He was 93 years old. The LP pays homage to Heath’s storied 70-year career that started with performing in Dizzy Gillespie’s band alongside a young Miles Davis. It therefore seems fitting that he would record a track from his formative years: Gillespie’s heavily covered 1954 classic “Con Alma.”
The likes of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Kenny Barron, guitarist Russell Malone, drummer Lewis Nash, as well as vocalists Gregory Porter and Cécile McLorin Salvant contributed to Love Letter. The album, which features both covers and Heath originals, was produced by Carol Friedman and Brian Bacchus.
“Jimmy always wanted to know the lyrics of a song before playing it,” Friedman said in a statement. “That particular sensitivity no doubt contributes to the intimacy of his sound and is the reason he loved playing ballads—whether a tune had lyrics or not, he was singing with that horn.”
Heath’s posthumous album Love Letter will arrive on July 17. Listen to “Con Alma” here: