Heath Brothers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Since the 1950s Albert "Tootie" Heath, of the Philadelphia Heaths, has been a paragon of jazz drumming. Just swinging as hard as he does would be more than enough to get by on, but he has myriad ways of giving voice to the time, from a very light cymbal ride to the full Fort McHenry fireworks show. He'll start a tune with sticks, switch to brushes for the piano solo, then a stick and a brush to turn up the heat, and on and on. A conscientious tuner, he gets a nice springy sound from whatever traps he's using. He's also one of those gifted musicians who can make the rudiments--paradiddles, flams, ruffs, rolls, and ratamacues--do the expressive work of Elmore Leonard's typewriter. It's all about witty colloquial dialogue, with a soloist or the rest of the band, his half being I heard that... uh-huh...a little more...uh-oh...wait a minute...OK, but check this out... Hearing him with anyone's a treat, and hearing him in this long-running outfit with his brothers is better yet. Tootie and bassist Percy fall into and out of complex accents or subdivisions of the beat at the drop of a stick or the pluck of an open string. Once or twice an evening Percy will switch to twangy, bluesy cello, and when he does rock-solid pianist Jeb Patton slides right under with a left-hand bass line. Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath grew up alongside John Coltrane and Benny Golson, and you can hear that shared Philly accent in his inflections, but his raspy emphases and grade-A tone are his own. The quartet plays bebop standards, Strayhorn ballads, roadhouse blues, and anything else that makes it sound good. Tuesday through Thursday, September 3 through 5, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, September 6 and 7, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, September 8, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Teri Bloom.

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