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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Heath Brothers present spirited show at Newark Museum |

Heath Brothers present spirited show at Newark Museum |

Heath Brothers present spirited show at Newark Museum

Published: Saturday, July 17, 2010, 7:32 AM
Star-Ledger Guest Columnist Star-Ledger Guest Columnist
jazz-heath-brothers-tootie-jimmy.jpg6 Saxophonist Jimmy Heath and brother Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums perform with pianist Jeb Patton and bassist David Wong at the Newark Museum's Jazz In The Garden concert series on Thursday afternoon.By Alex W. RodriguezFor The Star-Ledger
Jimmy and Albert “Tootie” Heath, siblings who have been mainstays in the jazz world for decades, brought their quartet to the Newark Museum’s Jazz in the Garden series on Thursday for a show that was fresh, inspiring and fun.Nobody embodied this spirit more than Jimmy, 83, who danced, clapped and laughed when he wasn’t weaving improvised melodic phrases through his tenor sax. Drummer Tootie, 75, also exuded confidence and flawless execution, reminding audience members that they were listening to a true jazz master.Their even-keeled, straight-ahead yet endlessly creative brand of jazz delighted the crowd of hundreds that gathered in the museum’s Alice Ransom Dreyfuss Memorial Garden.The show’s playful spirit even carried over to the interludes, when Jimmy took to the microphone to introduce the band and the songs. For example, he dedicated “Lover Man” to the younger members of the group because, he joked, “Well, I used to be.” The casual humor felt genuine and helped connect the audience to the music.During the next song, he led an enthusiastic chorus of clapping during a solo by pianist Jeb Patton. “Music is love, and love is music,” Jimmy said, “so if you love what you’re doing, you enjoy it, and you show it. It’s life’s music; it has an energy itself, and if you show your feeling for it to the audience, they respond.”Jimmy has been a fixture on the jazz scene since 1948. Tootie first recorded with John Coltrane in 1957 and has been one of the most in-demand jazz drummers since. The Philadelphia natives’ older brother Percy, who died in 2005, was a prominent bassist.Patton and bassist David Wong — who have been playing with Jimmy and Tootie since 1998 and 2008, respectively — joined them in Newark. They have assimilated their elders’ style and contributed consistent, hard-driving swing.“People say that this type of music is old, or swing is outdated,” Wong said after the show. “But when you get to actually feel it, play with it, I don’t know how you can think that it’s not totally fresh and creative, even in the context of playing straight ahead. Tootie is one of those guys that really knows how to create that feeling.”Wong also admires Jimmy Heath’s charismatic approach. “Jimmy knows how to put on a show and not sacrifice any of the music,” he said.Blessed with clear skies and warm sunshine, the large audience included preschoolers dancing on the lawn, twentysomethings taking their lunch break on picnic blankets and plenty of the Heath brothers’ gray-haired contemporaries nodding along and tapping their feet to the beat.Sheila Anderson, the coordinator of the Jazz in the Garden series, was excited about the diverse crowd, noting that “the audience seems to be a lot more varied: more office people and more young people, which is great because that’s what the museum is hoping for.”The series, scheduled for Thursday afternoons in July from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m., continues for two more weeks. The next concert will bring young trumpet phenom Dominick Farinacci, presented by local jazz-education powerhouse William Paterson University. The final show, on July 29, will feature vocalist Allan Harris. For information, visit for the Heath Brothers, they are preparing for another global tour, this time to Asia. The group maintains a busy schedule, and the logistics can be stressful. But for these jazz greats, the music still makes it worthwhile.As Tootie said, “(Playing) is easy, life is difficult. Life is sometimes fun; this is always fun.”

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