Scott Yanow [allmusic.com]
Ted Heath was one of the most famous big-band leaders in Great Britain of the 1950s. His bands played modernized swing music that was always danceable but occasionally had worthwhile solos played in the tradition. Heath started out playing tenor horn before he switched to trombone when he was 14. He spent a period playing as a street musician and then was discovered by Jack Hylton, who hired him for his band. Heath had long stints as a sideman with a variety of top dance bands, including ensembles led by Bert Firman (1924-1925), Hylton again (1925-1927), Ambrose (1928-1936), Sydney Lipton (1936-1939), and Geraldo (1939-1944). Heath began leading his own big band in 1944 and, through regular appearances on the radio, tours, and concerts, he soon became a household name in England. The innovations of bebop were largely ignored in favor of playing swing-oriented charts, although some of Heath's soloists (particularly Ronnie Scott, Danny Moss, Don Rendell, and Kenny Baker) became notable as jazz players. Heath, whose band was always of high musicianship and used "Listen to the Music" as its theme song, also became well known in the United States, visiting the U.S. several times starting in 1956. His orchestra recorded quite frequently starting in 1944 (mostly for Decca and London), including ten albums in 1959 alone. Even after Ted Heath's death in 1969, the big band continued performing and recording with a live concert cut as late as 1977.