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JAZZ REVIEW : Heath Quartet Displays Flair

July 08, 1988|LEONARD FEATHER

The only problem with Jimmy Heath's Quartet at the Vine St. Bar & Grill was brevity. Heath opened and closed Tuesday, playing to a slim post-holiday audience, but his group's performance level left little doubt that he'll be invited back.

This unit is an outgrowth of the Heath Brothers band of the late 1970s, before Percy Heath, the oldest, left to rejoin the Modern Jazz Quartet. Drummer Albert (Tootie) Heath rejoined the group for Tuesday's gig, bringing an obvious familiarity with the arrangements.

Switching back and forth between tenor and soprano saxophones, Jimmy Heath played a couple of his own works, "Sassy Samba" and "Winter Sleaze" (a variation on the chords of "Autumn Leaves"), as well as the familiar "Hi Fly" and "Invitation." Never a spectacular soloist, he avoided any freak notes or artificial audience-milking devices, maintaining a high level of taste and invention except on " 'Round Midnight," the dreary tempo of which seemed to hamper everyone.

The real star was Tony Purrone, who in addition to leading his own trio has worked with the Heath family off and on for a decade. He has developed into an astonishingly fecund guitarist, capable of dazzling single-note lines alternating with stunningly brilliant chord sequences. One can name a dozen guitarists of less talent who have their own recording contracts. Purrone's time for fame is long overdue.

Ben Brown on electric bass completed the quartet, soloing with impressive fluency.

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