Tootie Heath And Matt Wilson On JazzSet

Drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath leads a trio with pianist Ethan Iverson (left) and bassist Ben Street at the Village Vanguard. Credit John Rogers for NPR/

Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM

Tootie Heath says the drummer’s responsibility is to be happy. There’s no better believer in the happiness ethic than Matt Wilson — and we’re happy, too, grooving first to Heath, then Wilson, in highlights of sets from August and September 2012.

Born in 1935 as the youngest of three brothers headed for great jazz careers, Albert “Tootie” Heath crosses two generations to join this trio with pianist Iverson and bassist Street. They’re not a working group, but they’re wonderful, playing Gershwin tunes, a bossa, a waltz and the Charleston. Iverson rearranges some of the music and nails the rest — note his Bud Powell bebop in the last tune, “Reets and I” — and Street anchors it with strong bass playing.

Iverson — the blogger behind Do the Mathreminds the audience that Heath was an associate of pianist Mal Waldron, composer of “Fire Waltz,” featured on this set. Iverson recommends Waldron’s album Impressions (1959), with Addison Farmer on bass and Albert Heath on drums. That may be hard to find.

“We’re playing in the sonic sandbox tonight,” says drummer Matt Wilson of his Village Vanguard performance. Credit John Rogers for NPR/

Matt Wilson extends the joyful communion with past composers, as Arts and Crafts opens with “Little Boy With the Sad Eyes” from trumpeter Nat Adderley (Autobiography, 1964) and closes with “Pumpkin’s Delight” by saxophonist Charles Rouse. Terell Stafford is the trumpeter. Gary Versace doubles on piano and a two-console organ, walking his left hand in the lower register when contrabassist Martin Wind plays solo melodies. “We’re playing in the sonic sandbox tonight,” Wilson says.

Wilson calls Heath’s drum sound “transparent,” and Heath praises Iverson for leaving enough space for him and Street to establish and let the beat flow. “Everybody feels it — not just the musicians, but the people in the club, too,” Tootie says. And we’re the people, on JazzSet.

WBGO presented live video webcasts of both groups, and archived both sets: Iverson/Street/Heath and Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts.

Heath Trio Personnel
  • Ethan Iverson, piano
  • Ben Street, bass
  • Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums
Set List
  • “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (Gershwins)
  • “Insensatez/How Insensitive” (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
  • “Fire Waltz” (Mal Waldron)
  • “Charleston” (James P. Johnson)
  • “How Long Has This Been Going On?” (Gershwins)
  • “Reets And I” (Benny Harris)
Arts And Crafts Personnel
  • Matt Wilson, drums
  • Terell Stafford, trumpet
  • Gary Versace, keyboards
  • Martin Wind, bass
Set List
  • “Little Boy With The Sad Eyes” (Nat Adderley)
  • “Stolen Time” (Wilson)
  • “Pumpkin’s Delight” (Charles Rouse)

Thanks to WBGO’s Josh Jackson, producer of Live At The Village Vanguard, with recording engineer David Tallacksen and assistant Michael Downes. Our web producer is Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR Music. Surround Sound mixes by Duke Markos.

Copyright 2013 WBGO-FM. To see more, visit


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