Understatement was the key to last night's show at the Cellar Door as the Heath Brothers and Beverly Cosham delivered performances that were low in flash and high on sheer musicality.
The Heath Brothers have been around for a while, but their playing bristles with wit and vitality. Their jazz is unselfconsciously traditional and their playful improvisation is a joyful display of subtle instrumental exchanges.
Jimmy Heath's saxes and flute and Tony Purrone's guitar engaged in sprightly melodic conversation while Stanley Cowell's piano added soft harmonic touches. Bassist Percy Heath and drummer Keith Copeland delicately picked apart the rhythmic structures of songs, coaxing them along with harp, yet steady percussive accents.
The highlights of their set included a sultry interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley" (with a kalimba, flute and bowed cello) and a dazzling version of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" by Percy Heath on his "baby bass."
Washington singer Beverly Cosham opened the show with a moving performance that demonstrated the enormous range of her vocal powers. Accompanied only by a pianist, she captivated the crowd with boisterous singing that was tempered by a graceful intelligence. With her multifaceted voice, she is like a diamond in the rough, waiting to be discovered.