Heath/Iverson/Street + Tarbaby

Old-school working bands—tight-knit units with steady personnel—are increasingly rare in jazz. We size up two outstanding exceptions to that trend, each gigging behind a strong new album.

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Tarbaby + Heath / Iverson / Street

Tarbaby + Heath / Iverson / Street Photographs: Emra Islek; John Rogers


Heath/Iverson/Street Tarbaby

Who they are: The brainchild of pianist Ethan Iverson—a member of the Bad Plus and one of the scene’s premier scholar-performers—this intergenerational collective spotlights a masterful veteran: 78-year-old drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. As in the similarly conceived Billy Hart Quartet, Ben Street holds down the bass chair. This collaborative trio brings together three of the most in-demand rhythm-section players—not to mention composer-bandleaders—in contemporary jazz: pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits, joined live and on record by a rotating cast of guest stars.

What they play: The band’s repertoire—tailored by Iverson to suit Heath’s laid-back, bop-rooted majesty—includes vintage soundtrack themes, standards both modernist and classic, and even a charmingly nostalgic version of “The Charleston.” Reflecting the broad knowledge bases of its members, Tarbaby’s output encompasses earthy postbop, expressionistic free jazz, tender balladry and shrewd curveballs, like the Bad Brains cover that appeared on its 2010 sophomore set, The End of Fear.

Where to hear them: The band’s first studio album, Tootie’s Tempo, is out Aug 27 on Sunnyside. That same night, the trio begins a six-night Village Vanguard run. Tarbaby’s third LP, Ballad of Sam Langford—named for an undersung early-20th-century Canadian boxing great—is out now on Hipnotic. Avant-garde sax heavyweight Oliver Lake, who appears on the record, joins the band at Jazz Standard on Sep 3


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