Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Tootie's Tempo review - NYC Jazz Record

Al Tootie Heath/Ben Street/Ethan Iverson
Tootie's Tempo

If there was one word to describe this album, it would
be ‘sweet’. Most musicians would probably kick a cat
or write a regrettable Facebook post in order to regain
a more muscular reputation but even the cover of
Tootie’s Tempo is undeniably sweet: pianist Ethan
Iverson and bassist Ben Street flank drummer Albert
“Tootie” Heath wearing bowties, suit jackets, campaign
buttons and stubbly smiles.

Heath established himself as major mover in the
jazz world long before Iverson and Street were born.
He, along with brothers Percy (bass) and Jimmy
(saxophone), made their collective mark on hundreds
of essential jazz recordings starting in the ‘50s while
Street and The Bad Plus’ Iverson are in the midst of
forging their own legacies. The younger duo shows a
great and well-deserved reverence for their percussive
leader in this new recording of old standards.

The band open by going way back with a tune
dating to a dozen years before Heath was born - “The
Charleston”. Heath gives it a second-line pop as
Iverson bounces the familiar chestnut with both hands.
The trio dispenses an effortless swing at various speeds
over 11 tracks, from a funereal “How Insensitive” to a
simmering “Fire Waltz”, with Heath to the fore on
most every track. Iverson gets to stretch out on an
easygoing stroll through “Stompin’ At the Savoy”,
expanding and contracting across the keyboard with a
jagged edge while Street shines on a duet with Heath
on Neil Hefti’s “Cute”, carrying the melody with a sly
briskness. Appropriately, Heath has the last word with
the title track, an economic solo rendition of Frank
Foster’s “Shiny Stockings”.

Despite the throwback aspect, cross-generational
collaborations are invaluable both to preserving and
progressing jazz and this trio has done a terrific job of
making it fun. Let’s hope there is more to come.

Tootie's Tempo @ NYC Jazz Record

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