Endurance is a fitting word to describe Jimmy and Albert "Tootie" Heath, the veteran mainstreamers whose new release is their first since the death of their brother Percy four years ago.
Jimmy Heath, who just celebrated his 83rd birthday, remains a titan on the tenor saxophone (and occasionally the soprano), playing with the relaxed confidence and hard-earned wisdom of a certified jazz master. (The NEA honored him as such in 2003, one year after Percy.) His tone is warm and inviting, as are his bebop-based compositions, which account for seven of the album's nine tracks. Standouts include the breezy opener "Changes"; "Wall to Wall," a tune that opens with dramatic Coltrane-esque flourishes before morphing into a sort of upbeat Art Blakey march and the alluring Brazilian number "Rio Dawn."
Younger brother Tootie Heath, 73, continues to be one of the most tasteful, understated drummers in all of jazz, never reaching for attention, but never missing a beat. The talented young bassist David Wong bravely fills Percy's chair, performing especially beautifully on Jimmy's tribute to his late brother, "From a Lonely Bass," a tune that strongly recalls Ellington's classic "Solitude." The group's longtime pianist Jeb Patton rounds out the ensemble and contributes one of the date's most energetic and modern compositions, "Dusk in the City." Endurance is a sterling example of straight-ahead jazz, as authentic and heartfelt as it gets. Long may the Heath Brothers prosper.
Changes; Wall To Wall; You Or Me; Ballad from Leadership Suite; Dusk In The City; Two Tees; Autumn in New York; From A Lonely Bass; The Rio Dawn.
Jimmy Heath: tenor sax, soprano sax (tracks 5 & 8); Jeb Patton: piano; David Wong: bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath: drums; Claudio Roditi: shaker (track 9).
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