Last night we were able to get up close and personal with “Jazz Royalty” at best! Two of the most talented and dynamic souls that ever graced God’s earth, returned home to Wilmington, NC to a reception that would rival Kings!
Thanks to the Cape Fear Jazz Society, the UNCW Upperman African American Cultural Center the NC Arts Alliance, the City of Wilmington Complete with its hospitable Mayor: Bill Saffo, joined by his lovely wife Renee. The Thalian Association, Williston High School Alumni Group, Jimmy & Albert “Tootie” Heath won’t ever forget the trip back home.
They each received a bevy of plaques and awards, including the 2012 MLK (Martin Luther King) Spirit of Jazz Award and the prestigious Key to the City, from the Mayor. Kicking off the Thalian Hall venue “packed house” concert was Joe Chambers & His All-Stars. Which included Alto Saxophone, Benny Hill, Brad Merritt on the Piano, Doug Irving on Bass and Joe himself on Drums.
Next up was the Heath Brothers Combo; Earnest Turner on piano, Herman Burney on Bass and yes, the multi talented, smooth and “cool as beans” Heath Brothers. Albert “Tootie” Heath on Drums and Jimmy Heath on the Saxophone. These Jazz Ambassadors were humbled by the love, affection and genuine loyalty, both at the invitation only reception and the memorable concert.
Veteran Broadcaster and noted personality, Rhonda Bellamy was the Mistress of Ceremony and Tanya Suarez of the Cape Fear Jazz Society was on hand facilitating an award and other introductions. Ms. Bellamy is also the Co-founder of the Black Arts Alliance, Inc and the NC Black Film Festival. The Heath Brothers are down to 2 now, their brother Percy Heath passed away. March also marks the date for the NC Black Film Festival and Percy Heath will be honored in film. “Have Mercy Dr. Percy” via Director Maurice Martinez. Not only was Percy a stellar Jazz man, he was a Tuskegee Airman too.
Jimmy Heath is now 85 years old, but when “Tootie” asked was not giving this reporter a number! These guys were the picture of health and displayed an awesome sense of humor throughout the evening. Mayor Saffo declared March 9-11, 2012 the official “Heath Brothers Day.” Ms. Bellamy read a tribute titled: “Ode to Jazz” penned by the ever talented Barbara Ennett-Davis. This was an upbeat, saucy, temptingly bubbly off the cuff, on the beat set of great word smithing; about Jazz. Accompanying the Heath Brothers was Radio Announcer and Blogger: Carolina Jazz Connection with Larry Thomas. At Blogspot.com
Once we were tucked away, literally high atop the theater, in our seats and the opening act finished. We could hardly wait for the Heath Brothers to appear on the stage. But they did…. In his velvety smooth voice, Jimmy Heath announced that they were going to begin with “Take the A-Train” by Duke Ellington. The evening continued from there with more showcased selections; a medley of famed jazz music. Both of the Heath Brothers concluded that Jazz Music transcends all cultures and is a window to the soul.