Story and Photos by James Walker
Wow!!!!!!!!!!!! Perhaps that's all that needs to be said about the exceptional
three set performance of drummer Charles Heath and his star studded band of
keyboardist Roger Harris, bassist Larry Gray and alto saxophonist Greg Ward
recently at the weekly Hyde Park Jazz Society's Sunday night event at Room 43 on
the Southside of Chicago.
No matter how one turns those three letters around, upside down ,or backwards,
the meaning is the same; it expresses astonishment. These accomplished musicians
continued to astonish the crowd with their selection of standards and originals
from Heath's "Conversation" CD. And if that wasn't enough , throughout the
evening an "all-star" cast of Heath's friends dropped by to join in on the fun.
This group included, multireedist Victor Goines, keyboardists Ken Chaney, and
Darwin Noguera, bassist Frank Russell, and trumpeter Corey Wilkes. From start to
it's climatic conclusion with Wilkes joining in as they wailed away on "Yardbird
Suite", this was perhaps one of the top club sets reviewed by this writer for
Heath began the set with Cedar Walton's "Bolivia", allowing Ward an opportunity
to introduce himself to those who might not have been familiar with this
talented saxophonist, but by evening's end he made a lasting impression. This
set an early tone and it was obvious that Ward's skills would be highlighted
throughout. He had worked with Heath on "Conversations", and often performed
with Heath's band. They have such positive chemistry and it's projected during
An early highlight of the first set was an original entitled "Memories of Grand
"B". This is a composition Heath wrote in memory of his grandmother. Again,
Ward was featured, in addition to nice extended solo by Roger Harris and smooth
"bow" action by bassist Gray. He's one of the best when it comes to maintaining
the melodic tempo while using the bow.During Heath's solo, he uses a variety of
Northwestern University's Jazz study director Victor Goines joined in on Joe
Henderson's "Inner Urge". What a nice surprise to have world class multireedist
Goines stop by to "jam" with this talented band (Goines will be featured at Room
43 on January 24th of next year). Ward and Goines worked well together
alternating solos and blowing in unison.
The band concluded the first set with bassist Marcus Miller's "Ethiopia." Heath
opened this selection on the Melodic Rhythm Drum , which produced beautiful
African tinged sounds. Leader Heath, not to be upstaged by his band
mates,captivated the attention of the audience on this very unique instrument.
Keyboardist Harris experienced his finest moment during this number.
During the second set, a variety of cameo appearances were made by some of
Chicago's finest. Heath opened this set with Jeff "Tain" Watts' "Mr. JJ". Again, Mr. Heath took charge with some explosive drumming before inviting his mentor, keyboardist Ken Chaney to the stage for a couple of numbers. They played Miles Davis's "Solar", and a Jerome Kern selection entitled "Yesterdays".
This set ended with bassist Frank Russell taking his turn on
"Footprints". Animated and energetic as usual, Frank could hardly wait for Ward
to conclude his initial solo, to "get a piece of the action".
Although the third set was a short one, keyboardist Darwin Noguera and
trumpeter Corey Wilkes helped close this splendid evening on "Yardbird Suite".
Corey joined in after they began this number and as usual, he left his giant
prints on this three plus hours of Chicago Jazz.
Welcome back to Chicago Mr. Heath, and good luck in the New York Mr. Ward. Don't
forget to occasionally favor Chicago with your fine talent .
Hyde Park's next set features keyboardist Reginald T. McCants on October 18th.
For detailed information about future Hyde Park Jazz Society's events, refer to their website at www.hydeparkjazzsociety.org.