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The Heath Brothers: Jazz Family

Jack Bowers By

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There’s no gainsaying this album’s title: Philadelphia’s Heath brothers — Jimmy, Percy and Albert (a.k.a “Tootie”) truly are a Jazz family, perhaps even Jazz royalty, if such exists. On their second release for Concord, the monstrously talented brothers have invited some close friends and long–time colleagues to take part in a first–rate session of straight–ahead Jazz that resonates with charisma and intelligence. Trumpeter Joe Wilder, also from Philly, grew up with the brothers, while guitarist Tony Purrone worked in their band throughout the mid–’80s and early ’90s. Pianist Patton, a remarkably perceptive soloist/accompanist for one so young, is a graduate of Queens College in New York City, where Jimmy presided as director until his recent retirement. Completing the ensemble on two tracks are a brass choir consisting of Gardner, Williams, Powell, Stewart and Clark, whose French horn is especially effective playing counterpoint to Jimmy’s melody on the ballads “East of the Sun” and “Easy Living.” Jimmy wrote four of the tunes (“13th House,” “Wind Print,” “A Harmonic Future” and “Three at Last,” on which the brothers perform alone with Percy on cello). Percy contributed the funky “Move to the Groove,” and his pizzacato bass — with Tootie and Patton in support — is featured on the Nat Cole pop hit, ”I’m Lost.” Jimmy plays soprano on the other selection, Kenny Dorham’s “None Shall Wander.” Every time I hear Jimmy’s soulful tenor, his impeccable phrasing and apparently inexhaustible reservoir of persuasive concepts, I am reminded of what an underrated player he is. A remarkable stylist, he makes intricate improvisation sound so incredibly easy. The two ballads on which Jimmy is featured should be placed in textbooks for other aspiring tenors to study. Williams and Purrone have a couple of crisp solos apiece, Wilder at least one, I believe — on “None Shall Wander” — while Percy, Tootie and Patton form an impressive rhythm section. Another in an extensive and still-unfolding catalog of triumphs for the brothers Heath.

Track listing: 13th House; East of the Sun; Move to the Groove; Easy Living; Wind Print; I’m Lost; A Harmonic Future; None Shall Wander; Three at Last (56:15).

Personnel:

Jimmy Heath, tenor, soprano saxophones; Percy Heath, bass, cello; Albert

Title: Jazz Family | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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