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Tribute-- Tim Hegarty

Tim Hegarty's Tribute CD is as much a salute to his receptiveness as a student as it is to the quality of his teachers during his formative years as a saxophonist, namely Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, and George Coleman. His playing is an amalgam of these musicians, as well as Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane and others, but his mature style is individualized, commanding, and compelling. Vibraphonist Mark Sherman, heard on five tracks here, co-produced the session and selected the prime rhythm section that so ably supports and inspires the veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist-- pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Carl Allen. Hegarty in turn put together the fitting program, with four compositions by Heath, and one each by Foster, Coleman, Henderson, and Thelonious Monk to go along with his own two striking originals.

Heath's "A New Blue" opens with Reid's insinuating bass line that leads to Hegarty's full-throated evocation of the distinctive melody. His thematic tenor solo spurts and rumbles with a flavorful rhythmic diversity, and is followed by Barron's bluesy, glistening romp and Reid's assured communicative improv. Coleman's memorable "Amsterdam After Dark" features a night crawling bass / vibes vamp, and motivates a spiraling, fluttering, and beseeching solo from Hegarty, while Sherman's mixes subtle colors with more forceful motifs. Barron's dancing intro to Foster's "Simone" segues into Sherman's expansion thereof, before Hegarty develops the theme itself with a brawny sound and uplifting spirit and resolve, in obvious acknowledgement of the characteristics of the late composer's own performing style. Sherman's exposition simmers with a controlled intensity of focus, and Barron devours the changes with a churning momentum. Allen makes his tuneful, zesty mark in exchanges with tenor, vibes, and piano.

Hegarty caresses Heath's ballad "Ineffable" with the glowing, echoing tones of Sherman's vibes and Barron's sympathetic fills buoying his every salient note. After Hegarty's absorbing solo, Sherman provides a lucid excursion right out of the Lionel Hampton playbook, and Barron romances the components in a nearly continuous stream prior to the tenor's moving reprise and coda. The tricky, insinuating Heath line "New Picture" is taken at a mid-up tempo, and Sherman bursts forth with the first appropriately undulating solo. Barron succeeds him at a declarative pace, cleverly uniting several motifs. Hegarty's tenor then blusters, swirls, and preaches with a discerning fervor, while a contrastingly more subdued Reid is lyrically occupied. Hegarty burns through a reprise and out chorus to seal the deal. The original "Not to Worry" begins ominously between vibes and Reid's portentous bass, but the theme itself is lightly reflective as unfurled by the composer's soprano. His emphatic solo emphasizes trills and rippling accentuations, and Barron's spot takes a similar, equally effective path. Allen's attuned drum work adds to the impact of this mesmerizing track.

The second Hegarty tune, "Low Profile," is graced by Barron's polished intro and an attractive circular theme from which the leader's tenor embarks on a solo that artfully combines tonal variety and appealing form. Barron and Reid each draw upon the melodic content with diverting results in their statements, and Allen does the same in his trades with the saxophonist and pianist. Heath's best known work, "Gingerbread Boy," is given a true-to-form interpretation that is faithful to the original 1964 recording, as Hegarty's improv is highlighted by a determined attack and timbre recalling the composer's methodology. Allen again delights in his enthusiastic, muscular trades with Hegarty and Barron. On "Pannonica," Hegarty this time captures much of Charlie Rouse's sound in his sterling rendition of Monk's mellow dedication to the Baroness. His sweet-tempered tenor solo, however, is played with his own expressive, robust voice and confident and fresh phrasings. Barron, always a superlative interpreter of Monk's pieces, doesn't disappoint here. Joe Henderson's definitely urgent hard bop anthem, "Inner Urge," is stoutly handled by a rousing and meaty Hegarty, and Barron and Reid have propulsive, succinct says as well to wrap up this whirlwind venture (and the CD) in just under four minutes flat.

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Scott Albin