WBGO Radar

Albert "Tootie" Heath: Tootie's Tempo

cover art for tootie heath's cd tootie's tempo

It starts with the simplest of drum shuffles. Before you realize it, you're immersed in James P. Johnson's "The Charleston," wondering when was the last time you heard a jazz group do this?

It's the opening tune of the new Sunnyside release, "Tootie's Tempo," and it sets the stage for this eleven-track, inter-generational good time kept by drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street.

Heath is a member of one of the first families in jazz, and an important link to the art of modern drumming.

He is in good company here. IIverson is best known as pianist / composer with The Bad Plus trio, and bassist Street's aste for variety keeps him in high demand by the likes of Danilo Perez, Sam Rivers and Kurt Rosenwinkel.

The result is an hour-plus of gorgeous interplay on songs such as Henry Mancini's "Charade," and a cinematic exchange on "Danube Incident," which was written by Argentine composer Lalo Schiffrin for the Mission Impossible television series.

"Violets For Your Furs" is familiar to Heath - and to us - from his first recording session: John Coltrane's Coltrane in 1957.

The trio's exchanges on tunes by Ellington, Edgar Sampson, Mal Waldron, as well as some Heath mallet work on Jobim's "How Insensitive," and a Tootie tempo lesson on the title track, leave us hopeful these three will talk some more.

"Tootie's Tempo" comes out August 27, when the trio takes the stage for a week at the Village Vanguard in New York.

           - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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