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Albert “Tootie” Heath: Give the Drummer Some

Isn't it time to recognize one of jazz's greatest drummers?

Tootie Heath
The Heath Brothers-Jimmy, Percy and Tootie--circa 1998
Ethan Iverson, Ben Street and Tootie Heath (from left)
Ben Street, Ethan Iverson and Tootie Heath (from left), outside the Village Vanguard in August 2013

During a run at the Village Vanguard in late August, the drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath and his trio played about 12 succinct songs per set. How is it possible that Heath pulled the same gag at the end of each tune, and every time somebody laughed?

It went like this: He let the last cymbal stroke or bass-drum pound ring out, looked to his left and made conniving eye contact with someone in the audience. Just when you were sure he wasn’t going to bother doing it this time, he reached up with his thumb and forefinger, as if grabbing a lamp switch’s string, and yanked. He clamped the hi-hat pedal-Kssstch!-and aped surprise at the sound. The room broke up.

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