This album finds the Heath Brothers quartet in excellent form despite the absence of bassist Percy Heath. It’s the group’s first album since Percy’s death in 2005, and David Wong is a hard-swinging, well-rounded replacement. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Jimmy Heath offers several distinctive compositions as well as solos that are models of succinctness, lyricism and swing. Drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath is ever tasteful, grooving and inspirational. Jeb Patton, the group’s longtime pianist, offers lively, tailor-made support and compatible solos.
The only tribute to Percy per se is Jimmy’s “From a Lonely Bass,” which Wong plays arco with a lovely, rich tone and appropriate feeling. Six other tunes by Jimmy appear, each vested with inviting melodic and harmonic turns. “Two Tees,” written for “Tootie,” is a boppish piece with drum breaks as graceful and rhythmic as a tap dancer’s steps. Patton’s “Dusk in the City,” one of two features for Jimmy’s soprano, and Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York” complete the program.
While the album title is a comment on the Heaths’ longevity, there is more than just prolonged existence represented here. This group continues to exercise a broad range of creativity throughout, with superb self-editing skills. A class act all the way.