Tenor saxophonist Greg Heath originates from New Zealand, but has been based in the United Kingdom since 1989, working with a diverse array of artists including Van Morrison, Marianne Faithful and Jimmy Ruffin. Fact & Fiction finds Heath in more straight-ahead jazz territory, with strong early-'60s influences and a talented quartet of musicians. Indeed, the quartet's line up of Heath with John Donaldson on piano, Nick Kacal on double-bass and Lawrence Lowe on drums is reflective of those influences and fits well with Heath's compositional style.
The CD, co-produced by Heath and Kacal, features five tunes, all written by Heath. Unsurprisingly, the tenor is the preeminent instrument on the album, but the compositions also give ample opportunity for the other musicians to stretch out. The opening "No Time to Reason" is particularly evocative of early-'60s quartet playing; an up-tempo tune driven by Lowe's percussion and featuring some impressive tenor work and a beautifully crisp piano solo from Donaldson. By contrast, "Webb" takes a smoother approach, reminiscent of 1970s cop show themes, while "The Comfort Zone" has a slightly harder edge to it, illustrated by Donaldson's excellent solo, which sees him playing more aggressively than he does on the other tunes. Kacal's bass playing is impressive, his solos on "Webb" and "The Comfort Zone" both skillful and involving; but for most of the album the bass seems to be too far back in the mix to allow it the emphasis it deserves: an unusual situation given that Kacal co-produced the session.
Fact & Fiction doesn't break any boundaries, nor does it try to. It's an enjoyable collection of tunes played by a talented quartet, and it also shows Heath's potential as a leader and composer. Hopefully there will be more to come: Heath can be proud of this release, but next time a few more risks might be in order.
Track Listing: No Time to Reason; Webb; The Comfort Zone; Song for Andy Brown; Fact & Fiction.
Personnel: Gregory Heath: tenor saxophone; John Donaldson: piano; Lawrence Lowe: drums; Nick Kacal: