Brothers Jimmy Heath and Albert "Tootie" Heath carry on together in the tradition of the Heath Brothers band, minus their deceased brother, bassist Percy Heath. David Wong ably fills the bass chair, while pianist Jeb Patton has been working with the Philadelphia-based siblings for going on his dozenth year. There's a certain ease and calm present in Jimmy Heath's tenor sax playing that reflects the wisdom of his seasoned years, an assured stance that is never rushed or over-pronounced. This tone sets up the type of uncomplicated mainstream modern jazz based in bop that most fans can embrace and enjoy. It is refreshing that Jimmy Heath can still crank out new compositions that retain both traditional values and a universal appeal. And – if it actually needs to be said – Albert Heath is one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time, and continues on his tasteful, skillful, perfectly balanced path, a common example for students and fellow pros to follow. A perfect example of their combined expertise kicks off the set with "Changes," an effortless, light, breezy, and melodic a type of straight-ahead jazz as you will ever find.
There have been pivotal locales which were the nurturing ground for the vanguard in many art forms. Jazz music has had a number of these spots, from New Orleans up to Chicago, then to New York and outward. It would not be hard to argue that the great city of Philadelphia should be recognized with these others as a wellspring of talented musicians. One of Philadelphia s prominent sons is the fantastic drummer Albert Tootie Heath. He, like so many other Philly natives including his brothers Jimmy and Percy, grew up in the music, as the city was ripe with musicians of the first order and an important stop for many of the progenitors of the music. On his new recording Philadelphia Beat - Heath returns to his native ground to catch the spirit and preserve it.
Unlike some of his other Riverside recordings, the accent on this Jimmy Heath CD reissue is very much on his tenor playing (rather than his arrangements). Heath is in excellent form with a quintet that also includes pianist Wynton Kelly, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath. The instantly recognizable hard bop saxophonist performs four standards and three of his own compositions, including the original versions of "Gingerbread Boy" and "Project S." It's a good example of his playing talents.
Centered around some soundtrack music that Herbie Hancock wrote for Bill Cosby's Fat Albert cartoon show, Fat Albert Rotunda was Hancock's first full-fledged venture into jazz-funk and his last until Head Hunters making it a prophetic release. At the same time, it was far different in sound from his later funk ventures, concentrating on a romping, late-'60s-vintage R&B-oriented sound. with frequent horn riffs and great rhythmic comping and complex solos from Hancock's Fender Rhodes electric piano. The syllables of the titles alone "Wiggle Waggle," "Fat Mama," "Oh! Oh! Here He Comes" have a rhythm and feeling that tell you exactly how this music saunters and swaggers along just like the jolly cartoon character. But there is more to this record than fatback funk. There is the haunting, harmonically sophisticated "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" (which ought to become a jazz standard), and the similarly relaxed "Jessica."
Jimmy Heath has long been at least a triple threat as a musician (tenor, flute and soprano), arranger and composer. On this 1998 CD reissue, Heath sticks to tenor, performing "Make Someone Happy" and "The More I See You' while joined by pianist Cedar Walton and his two brothers, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath. The other five numbers consist of four of his originals (best-known is "Gemini") plus a reworking of the ballad "Goodbye." For these selections, the quartet is augmented by young trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (who takes a few fiery solos) and Julius Watkins on French horn. The arrangements of Heath uplift the straightahead music and make each selection seem a bit special.