There have been pivotal locales which were the nurturing ground for the vanguard in many art forms. Jazz music has had a number of these spots, from New Orleans up to Chicago, then to New York and outward. It would not be hard to argue that the great city of Philadelphia should be recognized with these others as a wellspring of talented musicians.
One of Philadelphia's prominent sons is the fantastic drummer Albert Tootie Heath. He, like so many other Philly natives including his brothers Jimmy and Percy, grew up in the music, as the city was ripe with musicians of the first order and an important stop for many of the progenitors of the music. On his new recording Philadelphia Beat - Heath returns to his native ground to catch the spirit and preserve it. Heath's story begins in the City of Brotherly Love, where he was born in 1935 into a community that not only supported the music, but truly helped it thrive.
Heath began his career early, forming the Bee Boppers with saxophonist Sam Reed and trumpeter Ted Curson, soon adding pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jimmy Garrison. Another group Heath belonged to was Bill Carney's Hi-Tones featuring a young John Coltrane and Shirley Scott. His sideman work with musicians like Lester Young and Thelonious Monk helped to solidify his reputation as a drummer, allowing him to find success soon after leaving Philadelphia. Joining Heath, on their third recording as a trio, are pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street. Iverson is best known for his work with the lauded collaborative trio The Bad Plus but has also been an invaluable member of groups led by Billy Hart and Lee Konitz, among others.
Street has long been a first call bassist for many of the leading lights in the music, including David Sanchez, Danilo Pérez and Kurt Rosenwinkel, and always joins Iverson in the Billy Hart quartet. In the midst of the trio's stay in Philadelphia and recording sessions at Turtle Studios, they were able to meet up with a handful of Heath's friends and peers at the Clef Club, the headquarters of the city's first black musician's union, located near Heath's childhood home. The guests included fellow Philadelphians Sam Reed, Billy Bonner, bassist Buster Williams, drummer Mickey Roker and Bill Carney. The meeting provided an opportunity for story telling, risqué jokes and a bit of inspiration for the musicians. For the recording, the trio brought a diverse program of standards and a couple of not so standards. The performances show the ensemble's ability to draw new concepts from well-loved pieces, being contemporary without ignoring the past.
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