One final DTM reminder: Tootie Heath, Ben Street, and me start a short tour tomorrow:
July 9 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)
10 Dazzle Jazz (Denver)
11 Blue Whale (LA)
12 Blue Whale (LA)
13 Outpost Performance Space (Albuquerque)
There are hundreds of albums featuring Tootie Heath. For a quick overview last year to accompany the JazzTimes cover story, Ben and I choose 10 of the best. It was a hard exercise: for example, we didn't even list Coltrane, John's first album as a leader. (The Nina Simone that did make the cut is her very first album, too.) And since compiling this list we keep hearing new stuff with T that is just amazing: Ben found J.J. Johnson's J. J. Inc.; I found the Riverside Reunion Band Plays (Mostly) Monk.
Still, these ten really are awfully good:
Nina Simone Little Girl Blue Like Connie Kay, Tootie Heath took the influence of Kenny Clarke and spread it to other kinds of black music besides straight-ahead jazz. His brushwork here shows remarkable depth for a 23-yr old, and his naturally undulating pulse helped some of these tracks become Simone’s biggest hits.
The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery This wasn’t a working band, just a thrown together assemblage for a record date, but many consider this to be the greatest jazz guitar LP ever made. Brothers Percy and Tootie Heath provide an immaculate carpet. Ben Street comes directly out of Percy on “D-Natural Blues.”
Bobby Timmons In Person This marvelous trio with Ron Carter has tight arrangements and smooth rhythm. They are kind of like a funkier version of the classic Ahmad Jamal trio with Israel Crosby and Vernell Fournier: Indeed, Tootie knew Fournier personally and credits him as an important influence.
Clifford Jordan Plays Leadbelly: These Are My Roots Tootie is heard giving his unique weight to a variety of folkloric beats, including an early appearance of his virtuosic tambourine. Jordan and Tootie both loved the old music and loved to experiment. They can change from being tricksters to intoning the deepest blues in a single phrase.
Charles McPherson Bebop Revisited A great record that should be much better known, with Detroit turks McPherson and Barry Harris partnering with Tootie, newcomer Carmell Jones, and Bird bassist Nelson Boyd for playful yet deadly serious bop.
Kenny Dorham Trumpeta Toccata Dorham’s last album as a leader would be one of his best. Four long tracks with diverse feels give Tootie plenty to do. Tootie was almost the house drummer for Riverside, which may be why he isn’t on as many Blue Notes. At any rate, it’s nice to hear Rudy Van Gelder’s touch on the drums here.
Sonny Rollins In Denmark Vol. 1 A bootleg, yes, but what a bootleg: the longest, most ferocious “Four” ever recorded with Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. Tootie kicks the Colossus along for over 40 minutes, neither giving the other any quarter.
Herbie Hancock The Prisoner Tootie preceded Billy Hart in the Herbie’s first working band, a sextet. All three Hancock/Heath discs are great, but The Prisoner may be the best for some of Hancock’s most intricate writing, marvelous Tootie/Buster Williams interaction, and Joe Henderson solos that are simply outrageous.
Clifford Jordan Half Note A rough and tumble live date from 1974, when down-the-middle music like this was going out of fashion. With Cedar Walton and Sam Jones, Tootie shows he is in the elite of New York drummers like Billy Higgins and Louis Hayes.
Albert Heath, The Offering. Tootie’s own albums include a few group efforts with peers, several with the Heath Brothers, and now Tootie’s Tempo. The neglected gem of the bunch is this ultra-rare solo album, a dedication to his late son Mtume Patrick Heath (named after the well-known percussionist, R & B producer, and family member James Mtume). In the liner notes, Scot Ngozi-Brown explains: “For Heath, Mtume's death is a source of meditative reflection on life's complexity and brevity. In concert with many African spiritual and philosophical systems, the physical shrine on the cover is filled with some of Mtume's cherished possessions and commemorative objects which invoke a memory of different aspects of his life. The music itself flows from Tootie Heath's deeply personal and integrated perspectives about life as a beautiful, brief and contradictory odyssey.”
More about the current trio under Tootie's Tempo. We are working on new repertoire in anticipation for the next record; those that come out for the tour this week may hear John Lewis "Concorde," Bobby Timmons "This Here," and Denzil Best "Move."
(photo by John Rogers)