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[whitespace] The Heath Brothers
Family Affair: Jimmy (left), Percy and Albert Heath know that the family that jams together stays together.

Brothers have been swinging for decades

By Nicky Baxter

THE HEATH BROTHERS are one of improvisational music's leading families; certainly they are among the genre's most revered. Over the span of five decades, they have performed with a galaxy of jazz giants as well as on their own. Jimmy Heath started out playing with bebop legend Howard McGee in the 1940s. Bassist Percy joined him in that band a couple of years later. Drummer Albert Heath, the baby of the family, made his debut with the John Coltrane group in the late 1950s. Of the three, Jimmy Heath is perhaps the best known. A stellar musician well versed in bop and its variants, his strong, sturdy tone and intelligently conceived solos surge with uncommon dynamism. He is the Heath Brothers' principal composer and arranger. Although Percy and Jimmy Heath played together in the '40s, it wasn't until the latter's recordings a decade later that all three recorded as a team.

In the '90s, the Heath Brothers have recorded a handful of stellar sessions, most notably 1991's Brotherly Love and As We Were Saying, made two years ago. The latter reunites the original lineup with pianist and composer Stanley Cowell, who has worked with the threesome on several dates, including the highly satisfying Brothers and Others. The group's newest effort, Jazz Family, boasts some of Jimmy Heath's finest compositions. Two of the tracks, "Old Flame" and "Swamp Seed," feature unique arrangements. "Swamp Seed," in particular, is a pleasing work-out with its arching strings and sonorous brass arrangement. Also worth noting is "A Harmonic Suite," originally written for the Lincoln Center Jazz Program and featuring saxophone titan Joe Henderson. Still swinging after all these years, the Heath Brothers represent improvisational music's illustrious past and present, guaranteeing a rich legacy for future generations.

The Heath Brothers appear as part of the Stanford Jazz Workshop's In-Residence program, July 31-Aug. 4. They perform Saturday (July 31) at 8pm at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford. Tickets are $24. (650.725.ARTS)

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From the July 29-August 4, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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