Tootie Heath Returns


Turtle Studio

(photo by Michael Perez during the Philadelphia Beat session)

This coming weekend, Friday and Saturday, I’m showcasing the legendary Albert “Tootie Heath” at the Zinc Bar. The third member of the “classic trio” is Ben Street, who will join us on Saturday, but on Friday the young brilliant Dylan Reis will sub for Ben (who has an unforeseen conflict).

Tootie, one of the greatest drummers of all time and the man behind the kit of the first leader recordings of both John Coltrane and Nina Simone, has been a little less active lately. We decided to bring him out from Santa Fe and play as a kind of benefit for him; indeed, the bassists and I are giving him all the money from the Zinc gigs.

For about five years Tootie, Ben, and I played together several times a year. Every moment I shared on the bandstand with Tootie was a real honor. Ben and I both learned tremendous amount. Tootie’s DTM interview remains good reading, especially for students of the music.

Ralph Peterson had something nice to say about our trio in a recent DownBeat blindfold test:

Ralph Peterson blindfold Tootie
And my best fan, Guillaume Hazelbrook, transcribed my solo on “Bag’s Groove” from the same disc. (Those are Tootie’s tiny croatales at the top of this excerpt.)

On Sunday, 4 PM, Tootie will be at the Owl Music Parlor in Brooklyn, giving a talk (or kind of workshop?) called “The Wit and Wisdom of Tootie Heath.” Bassist Martin Nevin and I will be on hand to play a few tunes, but I think Albert will mostly be taking questions and riffing. If you’ve never seen Tootie on a hot mic it is worth the trip: He is hilarious and obscene. Quite terrifying, really. All praise Tootie Heath!