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The Heath Brothers: As We Were Saying...

Douglas Payne By

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This friendly, swinging session is Jimmy, Percy and and Albert "Tootie" Heath’s first together since 1983’s Brothers and Others on Antilles. On their own, these guys have logged memorable time with the greatest names in jazz – from Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson and, in Percy’s case, The Modern Jazz Quartet. Each is a highly sought-after player (or writer, in Jimmy’s case) who’ve survived more than four decades of the jazz life – and still have plenty of energy left to swing.

Since their music together is ageless, As We Were Saying... seems to pick up effortlessly right where they left off in 1983. Guests include pianists Sir Roland Hanna and Stanley Cowell (Cowell chaired the piano on all previous Heath Brothers recordings), Mark Elf, who’s not as interesting on guitar as Tony Purrone and Slide Hampton (trombone) and Jon Faddis (trumpet) on three tracks.

As expected, not a single track is a dud. Standouts include the Basie blues of Percy’s "Dave’s Haze," the funky groove of the brothers' "South Filthy" and Albert’s outstanding "For Seven’s Sake" (which catches Cowell on kalimba and reminds one of the drummer’s fascinating, little-known 1969 album Kawaida ). The playing is always one step above expectation and is best on the three nicely chosen covers: Jimmy Dorsey’s "I’m Glad There Is You," Fats Navarro’s "Nostalgia" (featuring Percy’s lovely bass) and Ellington / Strayhorn’s "Daydream" (featuring Jimmy’s soprano).

Skip Stanley Crouch’s windy liner notes. As We Were Saying... is certainly worth hearing. It shames many of the young lions whose rebop and modal xeroxing have earned millions. The Heath Brothers, who were there at the beginning, are still far more interesting and have much more to say.


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