Ike Quebec was a really great and sadly under-recorded tenor man of the Coleman Hawkins school, with nods to Ben Webster and Stan Getz as well. In the 1940s Quebec cut some 10 and 12-inch 78 rpm records for Blue Note, records that were quite popular in their day. By the mid-fifties, Quebec had virtually disappeared from the scene, at least partially because his 78 rpm sides were not available on the new LP format, and so very few young jazz fans had ever heard of him.
In 1960, Alfred Lion produced a series of Quebec 45 rpm recordings, and the response to these was sufficiently encouraging that Blue Note embarked on a plan to record albums with Quebec as a leader, and to launch a comeback of this forgotten artist. From the time of the Heavy Soul session in 1961 to the sessions for his final album, Bossa Nova Soul Samba in October 1962, Quebec was kept busy with a variety of projects at Blue Note, appearing as a sideman with Sonny Clark, two other sessions as a leader (It Might As Well Be Spring and Blue and Sentimental) and a couple of other sessions which remain unissued. Unfortunately, this comeback was cut short when Quebec passed away on January 16, 1963 at the age of 44.
Heavy Soul is a powerful session featuring Quebec in the company of organist Freddie Roach, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Al Harewood. Opening with the minor key “Acquitted,” Quebec comes bursting out of the gate, demonstrating with ease that he has lost none of his abilities. It’s all there—the full, round Webster/Bias tone with an extra piquant edge, the bluesy, soulful human vocal quality of his tone, and the way he chooses his notes and phrases with almost telepathic ability. In the tradition of tenor ballads, Quebec presents a soulful reading of “Just One More Chance” that is truly as interesting an interpretation as any I’ve ever heard by a vocalist.
Freddie Roach has an organ style that sometimes seems to belong to a previous era to that in which he is recording. Some would no doubt argue that his work on the instrument is somewhat hokey, but nothing could be further from the truth. His subtlety of style is both refreshing and very supportive of Quebec’s earnest readings of his chosen material. Roach was one of Quebec’s discoveries in his sideline as A&R man for Blue Note during those years, and the organist went on to record several albums for the label as a leader.
The playing here ranks with the best recorded examples of Quebec’s work, and may ultimately be judged his best recording. In conjunction with his other late period Blue Note recordings, the best music of his career was produced at the end of his life. Particular standout tracks here include the Depression-era “brother Can You Spare a Dime,” a gorgeous reading of “The Man I Love,” and an amazing interpretation of the enigmatic ballad “Nature Boy,” performed by a duo of Quebec and Hinton.
These performances demonstrate clearly that Ike Quebec was a major tenor player and that his influence would have been more widely felt had it not been for his untimely death. With the gorgeous sound common to all RVG Editions, Heavy Soul is a must have for anyone who loves the great tenor saxophonists.