Tim Hegarty’s Tribute is framed as a paean to the artists whose teachings and example still inform the veteran saxophonist’s work, most notably Jimmy Heath, with whom Hegarty studied saxophone and composition and who wrote four of Tribute’s 10 tracks. The result is a worthy testimonial both to the legacy of the musicians that inspired it and to Hegarty’s own considerable gifts as reedman and composer.
Hegarty’s lilting yet muscular tenor gives funky flavor to Frank Foster’s “Simone,” and he rips off a fast-paced, melodically inventive solo on Heath’s “New Picture.” Hegarty’s gravelly timbre puts a heart-rending crack in the throat of Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica,” and Tribute’s sole soprano feature, Hegarty’s own composition “Not to Worry,” is an ethereal zephyr of a piece, his sinuous lines snaking through a moody arabesque of enveloping harmonies.
Tribute is likewise a testament to the skill of a murderers’ row of a rhythm section. Hegarty wisely grants Kenny Barron ample time to showcase his sharp-angled melodic sense, and the pianist’s accompaniment cements his status as one of jazz’s most harmonically inventive players. The vibes of Mark Sherman, who co-produced the album with Hegarty, meld beautifully with Barron on the wistful Heath ballad “Ineffable,” and drummer Carl Allen provides subtly shifting rhythmic foundations and, on the fourth Heath track, “Gingerbread Boy,” trades punchy six-bar phrases with Hegarty and Barron. Bassist Rufus Reid is unfortunately rendered occasionally inaudible in the mix, but when his playing does ring through, it rings true indeed, and his solo on the Hegarty original “Low Profile” swings majestically.