If you know anything about Iverson — who, in addition to his work with the Bad Plus, maintains a high bar for jazz-historical veneration on the bandstand and on the Web — you’ll recognize his fingerprints all over Tootie’s Tempo. He’s the likeliest culprit behind some straight-faced drollery in the repertory: The Charleston, Cute, Stompin’ at the Savoy. He’s the one most inclined toward the stark decorum in this reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s How Insensitive. Then there’s the rustling ballad It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago, by Paul Motian, one of Iverson’s saints.
But it would be a mistake to consider this an Ethan Iverson Trio recording by default. (That’s maybe a little truer of this group’s previous album, Live at Smalls, released on the SmallsLIVE label in 2010.) For one thing, Heath conveys an unshakable authority in his beat, notably on a polyrhythmic workout like Mal Waldron’s Fire Waltz.
And his own spirit of play suffuses the session, often in subtle touches: a laconic snare-drum fill, the back-in-the-saddle pull of his ride cymbal pattern. When you hear his easy but serious rapport with the other players, Street in particular makes you want to track the action in real time.
And hearing the album’s title track (not to be confused with the title track of an album from the 1970s by the blind Catalan pianist Tete Montoliu, on which Heath also played) will possibly make you want to revisit his playing on record, going back through the discographies of the Heath Brothers, Yusef Lateef and many others. The track consists of Heath alone, playing the form of Frank Foster’s Shiny Stockings. So it’s nothing more than a swing beat — but also, it’s worth saying, nothing less.