Billy Higgins began his career playing rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll with such musicians as Amos Milburn and Bo Diddley in the Los Angeles area, then played jazz with the Jazz Messiahs (led by Don Cherry and the saxophonist James Clay) and Dexter Gordon, and from the mid-1950s took part in rehearsals with Ornette Coleman; in 1958 he recorded with Coleman and with Red Mitchell. He performed with Coleman's quartet in New York (1959) and with Thelonious Monk, in San Francisco (recording in 1959-60).
During the following decades he became one of the most widely recorded drummers in jazz; he made albums with the quintets of Steve Lacy (1961), Sonny Clark (1961), and Lee Morgan (1963, 1966), as well as with Donald Byrd (1961), Gordon (1962, 1975), Jackie McLean (1966, 1967), Hank Mobley (1967), Mal Waldron (1973), Clifford Jordan (1975), and Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen (1975, 1976), and was a leader with Bill Lee and Bill Hardman of the Brass Company (1972-3).
He performed and recorded with Cedar Walton (1975-85), led a quartet (recording in 1979 and 1980), and made recordings as a sideman with Milt Jackson (1976, 1978), Art Pepper (1979), J.J. Johnson (1979), Joe Henderson's quartet (1980), Pat Metheny(1982), David Murray's big band (1984), and Slide Hampton's quintet (1985).
He also performed and recorded as a member of the Timeless All-Stars and played occasionally with Coleman in New York (1977, 1987). Higgins has been influenced by Ed Blackwell, Roy Haynes, and Kenny Clarke and is highly regarded for his restrained, loosely swinging manner. He plays and briefly acts in the film 'Round Midnight (1986).
--MICHAEL ULLMAN, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
The last years he also played with Joshua Redman.
Billy Higgins passed away 5/4/2001.