Heath Brothers | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Heath Brothers 

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HEATH BROTHERS

Jazz, like baseball, has seen several sets of hard-swinging siblings--and as in baseball, jazz players who grew up in the same house almost never work together. The most notable exception in baseball is the Alous, three almost equally talented brothers who briefly composed the San Francisco Giants outfield; jazz has the Heath Brothers, who, after establishing their own careers, came together in 1975 to form a band that has played off and on ever since. Bassist Percy, the eldest, achieved fame first, as a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, a perfect showcase for his understated rhythmic and tonal elegance and his muted solo work. By the following year, when he took part in Miles Davis's cherished Blue Note recordings of 1952-'53, he had the slightly younger Jimmy, a skilled saxist and budding tunesmith, in tow. A full decade later the much younger Albert--whose nickname, "Tootie," remains even though he's pushing 63--followed his brothers from their native Philadelphia to New York, where he built an enviable career as a drummer who could respect hard bop's boundaries but create energetically within them. The family enterprise depends on Jimmy's tough, boppish compositions and consistent, if unspectacular, solos for its fuel and on Tootie's adventurous rhythms for its spark. Last year's As We Were Saying...(Concord) is the brothers' first album in about 15 years, and it's a well-balanced collection of originals, nearly forgotten bop lines, and standards, all invested with the usual consummate musicianship. They're not always what you'd call inspired, but the Heaths occasionally do reach a state of mainstream satori; the rest of the time their easygoing professionalism carries the day. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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