James Edward Heath (October 25, 1926 – January 19, 2020), nicknamed Little Bird, was an American jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, and big band leader. He was the brother of bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert Heath.
|Birth name||James Edward Heath|
|Also known as||Little Bird|
|Born||October 25, 1926|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||January 19, 2020 (aged 93)|
Loganville, Georgia, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, bebop, hard bop|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, educator, composer, arranger|
|Instruments||Alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute|
|Labels||Riverside, Limelight, Impulse, Atlantic, Verve, Xanadu, Landmark, SteepleChase|
|Associated acts||Heath Brothers, Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, Kenny Dorham, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Curtis Fuller, Julius Watkins, Nat Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane|
Heath was born in Philadelphia on October 25, 1926. His father, an auto mechanic, played the clarinet, performing on the weekends. His mother sang in a church choir. The family frequently played recordings of big band jazz groups around the house. Heath's sister was a pianist, while his brothers were bassist Percy Heath (older) and drummer Albert Heath (his youngest sibling).
During World War II, Heath was rejected for the draft for being below the minimum weight.
Heath originally played alto saxophone. He earned the nickname "Little Bird" after his work for Howard McGhee and Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940s, during which his playing displayed influences from Charlie Parker (Parker's nickname was "Bird"). He then switched to tenor saxophone.
From late 1945 through most of 1946, he performed with the Nat Towles band. In 1946, he formed his own band, which was a fixture on the Philadelphia jazz scene until 1949. The band included John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Specs Wright, Cal Massey, Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant, and Nelson Boyd. Charlie Parker and Max Roach sat in on one occasion. The band performed at venues such as the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Although Heath recalls that the band recorded a few demos on acetate, it never released any recordings, and its arrangements were lost at a Chicago train station. The band dissolved in 1949 so that Heath could join Dizzy Gillespie's band.
Heath was arrested and convicted twice for the sale of heroin; he was an acknowledged addict. The first time, in the spring of 1954, he was sent to the Federal Medical Center, Lexington, Kentucky, where many musicians and celebrities (and other people) were given treatment. After release, In early 1955, still an addict, he was arrested again, and served most of a six-year prison sentence in Lewisburg. He went cold turkey, and was able to spend a lot of his time engaged in music. While in prison he actually composed most of the Chet Baker and Art Pepper album Playboys (1956). He was released early, on May 21, 1959, and remained clean for the rest of his life; conditions of probation made it difficult, but he managed to start rebuilding his career.
He briefly joined Miles Davis's group in 1959, replacing Coltrane, and also worked with Kenny Dorham and Gil Evans. Heath recorded extensively as leader and sideman. During the 1960s, he frequently worked with Milt Jackson and Art Farmer.
In the 1980s, Heath joined the faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, City University of New York. With the rank of Professor, he led the creation of the Jazz Program at Queens College and attracted prominent musicians such as Donald Byrd to the campus. He also served on the Board of the Louis Armstrong Archives on campus, and the restoration and management of the Louis and Lucille Armstrong Residence in Corona, Queens, near his own home. In addition to teaching at Queens College for more than 20 years, he also taught at Jazzmobile.
At a coming-home party the night after his release from Lewisburg Penitentiary, he met his eventual wife, Mona Brown, whom he married in 1960; they had two children, Roslyn and Jeffrey.
In 2010 his autobiography I Walked With Giants was published by the Temple University Press. Heath stood just 5 feet, 3 inches.
Awards and legacyEdit
He received a Grammy nomination for box-set liner notes of The Heavyweight Champion, John Coltrane, the Complete Atlantic Recordings (Rhino, 1995), and Grammy nominations for Little Man Big Band (Verve, 1994) and Live at the Public Theatre with The Heath Brothers (Columbia, 1980).
During his career, Heath performed on more than 100 albums, including seven with the Heath Brothers and 12 as a leader. He wrote more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards and have been recorded by other artists, including Art Farmer, Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, J. J. Johnson, and Dexter Gordon. Heath also composed extended works – seven suites and two string quartets – and premiered his first symphonic work, Three Ears, in 1988 at Queens College, with Maurice Peress conducting.
- Heath, Jimmy; McLaren, Joesph (2010). I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath. Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1-4399-0198-4.
- 1959: The Thumper (Riverside)
- 1960: Really Big! (Riverside)
- 1961: The Quota (Riverside)
- 1962: Triple Threat (Riverside)
- 1963: Swamp Seed (Riverside)
- 1964: Fast Company (Milestone)
- 1964: Nice People (Original Jazz Classics)
- 1964: On the Trail (Riverside)
- 1965: Jam Gems: Live at the Left Bank (Label M – released 2001) – with Freddie Hubbard
- 1972: The Gap Sealer (Cobblestone) – also released as Jimmy (Muse)
- 1973: Love and Understanding (Muse)
- 1974: The Time and the Place (Landmark – released 1994)
- 1975: Picture of Heath (Xanadu)
- 1985: New Picture (Landmark)
- 1987: Peer Pleasure (Landmark)
- 1991: You've Changed (SteepleChase)
- 1992: Little Man Big Band (Verve)
- 1995: You or Me (SteepleChase)
- 2006: Turn Up the Heath (Planet Arts)
- 2010: Endless Search (Origin)
- 2012: Our Jazz Family(JZAZ Records)
- 2014: Togetherness:Live at the Blue Note (Jazz Legacy Productions)
- 2014: My Ideal (Jazz Elite S.P.) (digital)
- 2020: Love Letter (Impulse!)
With the Heath BrothersEdit
- 1975: Marchin' On (Strata-East Records)
- 1978: Passin' Thru (Columbia Records)
- 1979: Live at the Public Theatre (Columbia Records])
- 1979: In Motion (Columbia Records)
- 1980: Expressions of Life (Columbia Records)
- 1981: Brotherly Love (Antilles Records)
- 1981: Brothers and Others (Antilles Records)
- 1997: As We Were Saying (Concord Records)
- 1998: Jazz Family (Concord Records)
- 2009: Endurance (Jazz Legacy Productions)
With Nat Adderley
- That's Right! (Riverside, 1960)
With Donald Byrd
With Benny Carter
- Over the Rainbow (MusicMasters, 1989)
With Stanley Cowell
- Regeneration (Strata-East, 1976)
With Miles Davis
- Miles Davis Volume 2 (Blue Note, 1953) reissued mostly on Miles Davis Vol 1 - 12 inch LP
With Kenny Dorham
With Charles Earland
- Black Drops (Prestige, 1970)
With Art Farmer
- The Time and the Place: The Lost Concert (Mosaic, 1966) - released 2007
- The Art Farmer Quintet Plays the Great Jazz Hits (Columbia, 1967)
- The Time and the Place (Columbia, 1967)
- Homecoming (Mainstream, 1971)
With Curtis Fuller
With Red Garland
- The Quota (MPS, 1971)
'With Bunky Green
- My Babe (Vee-Jay, 1960 )
With Johnny Hartman
With Albert Heath
- Kwanza (The First) (Muse, 1973)
With Elmo Hope
- Homecoming! (Riverside, 1961)
With Freddie Hubbard
- Hub Cap (Blue Note, 1961)
With Milt Jackson
- Vibrations (Atlantic, 1961)
- Big Bags (Riverside, 1962)
- Invitation (Riverside, 1962)
- Statements (Impulse!, 1962)
- Milt Jackson Quintet Live at the Village Gate (Riverside, 1962)
- Jazz 'n' Samba (Impulse! 1964)
- In a New Setting (Limelight, 1964)
- Ray Brown / Milt Jackson with Ray Brown (Verve, 1965)
- Born Free (Limelight, 1966)
- Olinga (CTI, 1974)
With J. J. Johnson
- All Stars (with Clifford Brown) (Blue Note, 1953) reissued as The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Volume 1 (1957)
With Carmell Jones
- Jay Hawk Talk (Prestige, 1965)
With Sam Jones
With Herbie Mann
- Latin Mann (Columbia, 1965)
- Big Boss Mann (1970)
With Howard McGhee
- Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson (Savoy, 1948)
With Blue Mitchell
With the Modern Jazz Quartet
- MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (Atlantic, 1994)
With Don Patterson
- These Are Soulful Days (Muse, 1972
With Pony Poindexter
- Pony's Express (Epic, 1962)
With Julian Priester
- Keep Swingin' (Riverside. 1960)
With Don Sickler
- The Music of Kenny Dorham (Reservoir, 1983)
With Don Sleet
- All Members (Jazzland, 1961)
With Cal Tjader
- Soul Sauce (Verve, 1965)
With Charles Tolliver
- Music Inc. (Strata-East, 1970)
With Gerald Wilson
- New York, New Sound (Mack Avenue, 2003)
With Nancy Wilson
- Turned to Blue (2006)
- Allmusic biography
- "Jazz Saxophone Legend Jimmy Heath Has Died". NPR. January 19, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
- "10 days of jazz at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival". Santa Rosa Press Democrat. May 25, 2017.
- "Blue Note JIMMY HEATH BIG BAND - 2019-01-12". www.bluenote.net.
- Porter, Lewis. John Coltrane: His Life and Music Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. ISBN 9780472101610.
- Heath, Jimmy; McLaren, Joseph (2010). I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 98–101. ISBN 978-1-4399-0198-4.
- Friedwald, Will (July 19, 2010). "A Jazz Colossus Steps Out". The Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones & Co. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "Picture of Heath - Jimmy Heath | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
- Berman, Eleanor. "The jazz of Queens encompasses music royalty", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 1, 2006. Accessed October 1, 2009. "When the trolley tour proceeds, Mr. Knight points out the nearby Dorie Miller Houses, a co-op apartment complex in Corona where Clark Terry and Cannonball and Nat Adderley lived and where saxophonist Jimmy Heath still resides."
- Heath, Jimmy; McLaren, Joseph (2010). I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 80–90. ISBN 978-1-4399-0198-4.
- National Endowment for the Arts. "NEA Jazz Masters: Jimmy Heath". National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "Temple University Press". tupress.temple.edu.
- "Jazz Composer and Saxophone Player Jimmy Heath Dies at 93". Associated Press. January 20, 2020 – via NYTimes.com.
- "Jazz Saxophone Legend Jimmy Heath Has Died". NPR.org. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
- "Artist: Jimmy Heath". grammy.com. 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
- "Queens College, City University of New York". www.qc.cuny.edu. Archived from the original on September 8, 2006.
- "Blue Note JIMMY HEATH BIG BAND - 2019-01-12". www.bluenote.net.
- Heath, Jimmy; McLaren, Joseph (2010). I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 296–300. ISBN 978-1-4399-0198-4.
- "Jimmy Heath | Album Discography". AllMusic.
- AllMusic review: Continium - Mad About Tadd
- Jazz, All About. "Jazz news: Don Sleet: All Members". All About Jazz News.