Remembering Tootie Heath

Jazz88 celebrates the life and career of drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, who died on April 3rd at the age of 88. Heath was born in Philadelphia to a family of accomplished musicians. His oldest brother Percy was the bassist with the Modern Jazz Quartet for four decades and his other elder sibling Jimmy was a legendary saxophonist and composer.
While still in his teens, Tootie became the house drummer at Philadelphia’s Blue Note Club, where he played with visiting jazz legends including Thelonious Monk and Lester Young. When he turned 22, Heath made his recording debut on John Coltrane’s first album as a leader. Later that year, his brushwork provided a lift to Nina Simone on her timeless recording of My Baby Just Cares for Me. Over the next several decades, Heath worked with a virtual who’s who of jazz, including J.J. JohnsonWes MontgomerySonny Rollins, and Herbie Hancock, just to name a few.
Heath wasn’t a revolutionary drummer like Tony Williams or Elvin Jones, but rather he was an extremely tasteful drummer who knew just what embellishments and accents would add energy and momentum to any musical situation. Heath was a regular instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and he was was the producer and leader of The Whole Drum Truth, a jazz drum ensemble featuring Ben RileyEd ThigpenBilly Hart, and other jazz legends.
Write Up By Peter Solomon

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