A Love Song

Percy Heath

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A Love Song Review

by Ken Dryden

One of the most respected bassists active at the beginning of the 21st century, Percy Heath was 79 years old when he finally made his first recording as a leader in 2002 and it was long overdue. With a band that includes his brother Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums, bassist Peter Washington, and a fine young pianist, Jeb Patton, the leader has a few surprises in store. His first track is a poignant original ballad, "A Love Song," which he plays unaccompanied on cello. When the band joins him for an updated treatment of Percy's decades-old "Watergate Blues," he sticks to cello, bringing to mind the genius of an earlier player who doubled on bass and cello with equal skill, Oscar Pettiford. He was so well-versed with John Lewis' beautiful ballad "Django" from having performed it countless times as a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet that he decided to try a different approach. His unaccompanied bass starts the piece, with Tootie's brushwork joining him a bit later, and finally, the pianist as well. "Salute for Pop" is a four-part suite dedicated to the Heaths' father, a moving tribute to a man who sired a jazz dynasty. Sir Roland Hanna's marvelous "Century Rag" (an obscure work that appears on his CD Round Midnight) was arranged by Patton; it opens up considerably when Percy's bass and Tootie's drums make their entrance. Patton, who studied under Hanna, honors his late teacher with a moving, bittersweet tribute called "Hanna's Mood." This brilliant release demands a prompt sequel.

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