IN JAZZ, as in rock, musical reunions come and go. As a rule, jazz fans just have to wait a little longer. Take the latest Heath Brothers album, "Brothers and Others." After a lengthy sabbatical, drummer Albert (Tootie) Heath is reunited with brothers Jimmy and Percy and the quartet's pianist, Stanley Cowell, on a refreshingly diverse collection of bop, calypso and contemporary jazz tunes.
The "Others" mentioned in the title include trombonist Slide Hampton and violinist Joe Kennedy Jr. But they are are employed all too sparingly, given the color and vitality they bring to the opening track, "Keep Love Alive," and their individual contributions to a haunting version of "Prelude to a Kiss" and the muscular bop tune "Nice People." But no matter. As long as saxophonist Jimmy Heath is blowing mightily, improvising ingeniously atop the luxuriant rhythms plied by his siblings, all's right with this recording.
Among the highlights is "Sleeves," a sly reworking of "Autumn Leaves," on which Jimmy's opposing tenor sax and Percy's resounding bass lines create a striking contrast. Then, too, there's Jimmy's thoughtful and ultimately stirring reading of Ellington's aforementioned "Kiss," plus a typically extroverted blues called "Long Gravity" and the engaging calypso "Islandized." With all the brothers in top form, and with Cowell providing plenty of inspiration at the keyboards, "Brothers and Others" makes for one happy reunion.
Red Rodney and Ira Sullivan, who teamed up again in 1980 after a 20-year layoff, are also still going strong, and "Highjinx at the Vanguard" suggests the reunion was blessed from the start. Recorded in New York five years ago, these concert performances were not meant for release, but because they amply convey the duo's spirit and emphathy -- to say nothing of the excitement of the moment -- they eventually won the approval of both musicians.
Virtually all of the tunes, including the standards "Days of Wine and Roses" and "I Got It Bad . . . ," are treated to colorful, imaginative arrangements, often distinguished by the duo's trumpets and by Sullivan's graceful flute and saxophones.
Sullivan is also represented by "Strings Attached," a large ensemble album that's occasionally reminiscent of the more ruminative solo albums he's released. Unfortunately, Sullivan isn't heard nearly enough on this outing. A blend of strings, jazz, rock and spiritual longing, the session may appeal to admirers of Dave Brubeck or recent Horace Silver recordings. But straight-ahead jazz fans, beware. THE HEATH BROTHERS -- "Brothers and Others" (Antilles AN 1016); the Jimmy Heath Quartet performing Friday and Saturday at the One Step Down. RED RODNEY -- (featuring Ira Sullivan) "Highjinx at the Vanguard" (Muse MR 5267); IRA SULLIVAN -- "Strings Attached" (Pausa PR 7169); Rodney and Sullivan appearing at Baird Auditorium in the Museum of Natural History at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.