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Percy Heath Steps Out

Detail from the CD cover for 'A Love Song.'
Detail from the CD cover for 'A Love Song.'

The Heath brothers -- bassist Percy, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath -- have made an indelible mark on the history of jazz.

Percy, the oldest sibling, was a key member of the Modern Jazz Quartet beginning in the 1951 and has played on literally hundreds of albums as a stalwart rhythm section sideman. (That was after his stint as a pilot with the Tuskeegee Airmen during World War II).

Heath was recently recognized by The New School University's Jazz & Contemporary Music Program with their ''Beacons in Jazz'' award. It goes well with his 2002 designation as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

While the lifetime achievement kudos have started to add up these days, another recent development in Heath's lengthy career may have more significance to the bassist. At the age of 80, Heath has released his first solo CD, A Love Song.

NPR's Liane Hansen spoke with Heath about his family, his life and his new album.

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Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.