Video goes live, on this page, February 19, 2021 at 9am, and will be available for viewing through March 6.

The second in our series of NM Jazz Festival Revisited virtual events, which we started in December 2020, this special on-line presentation features a real time conversation (recorded this month!) between retired NEA Deputy Chairman, poet, and author, A.B. Spellman and legendary drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath who was named an NEA Jazz Master this year!

Production by Reinhard Lorenz of First Eye Films and Outpost Founder & Executive Director, Tom Guralnick

This event is made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Kaman Foundation; The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; and the City of Albuquerque, and we thank our sponsors, Lynn Slade & Susan Zimmerman.

We are pleased to present the second in our series of New Mexico Jazz Festival online presentations, which we began in December 2020 with a 7th Annual New Mexico Jazz Festival Revisited presentation featuring recorded material culled from the 2012 New Mexico Jazz Festival. This special Meet the NEA Jazz Master event features a real-time conversation (recorded last week!) with retired NEA Deputy Chairman, poet and author, A.B. Spellman, and legendary drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, who was named an NEA Jazz Master this year!

A.B. Spellman has been an integral part the New Mexico Jazz Festival since its inception in 2006, presenting a “Meet the NEA Jazz Masters” conversation at the Lensic every year. He has spoken with Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Palmieri, John Hendricks & Sheila Jordan, Kenny Barron & Dave Holland, and so many more, including Albert “Tootie” Heath’s older brother, saxophonist Jimmy Heath in 2010. In that conversation, A.B. pointed to “Tootie” in the audience and said, “Tootie certainly deserves to be named an NEA Jazz Master as well.”  Well, this year, that well deserved honor came to fruition! So, it seemed fitting to do a Meet The NEA Jazz Master virtual conversation as part of our series and we were so pleased that both Mr. Spellman and Mr. Heath were willing and able to make it happen!

A.B. Spellman, retired Deputy Chairman at the National Endowment for the Arts, was central to the  NEA Jazz Masters program, which was established in 1982. He worked at the NEA for 30 years and is a renowned poet, jazz critic, biographer and champion of the music. Spellman wrote reviews for all the major jazz magazines and published his first book of poetry, The Beautiful Days in 1966. His seminal book, Four Lives in the Bebop Business (also known as Four Lives: Black Music) – also published in 1966 – featured the lives and music of Cecil Taylor, Jackie McLean Ornette Coleman, and Herbie Nichols and truly changed the world of jazz writing. It remains one of the best books ever written in the field of jazz literature.  Spellman remains active to this day, publishing new works of poetry and developing operas, librettos and much more.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Albert “Tootie” Heath learned from his father, a clarinetist, as well as from his older brothers, bassist, Percy Heath, and saxophonist Jimmy Heath (both NEA Jazz Masters), who were already establishing themselves in the jazz world. Still in high school, Heath was asked to accompany Thelonious Monk on the drums during his engagement at Philadelphia’s Blue Note Club. By 1957, he had moved to New York, where he had made his recording debut with the legendary John Coltrane. Since then, he has performed and played on more than 100 recordings with everybody from JJ Johnson to Cannonball Adderley, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Clifford Jordan, his nephew Mtume, Yusef Latef, Herbie Hancock and many more. In 1975, Tootie joined his brothers and pianist Stanley Cowell to form the Heath Brothers, a group that remained active until the passing of Percy Heath in 2005. During the mid-1990s he was the drummer in the Modern Jazz Quartet. Since the late 2000s, Heath has produced and led the Whole Drum Truth, an intergenerational jazz drum ensemble featuring legendary and emerging jazz drummers including Billy Hart, Louis Hayes, and Willie Jones III as well as a local version featuring Santa Fe’s own John Trentacosta and Loren Bienvenu. Tootie and his wife Beverly moved to Santa Fe in 2013 and he has since become an integral part of our New Mexico jazz community.

More New Mexico Jazz Festival Revisited video productions will be featured in the upcoming months, so stay tuned!

The Outpost