Archive for December, 2016

Jimmy Heath

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Jimmy Heath has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger. Jimmy is the middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (Percy Heath/bass and Tootie Heath/drums), and is the father of Mtume. Heath has a distinctive sound on tenor, is a fluid player on soprano and flute, and a very talented arranger/composer whose originals include “C.T.A.” and “Gingerbread Boy.” He was originally an altoist, playing with Howard McGhee during 1947-1948 in Philadelphia and the Dizzy Gillespie big band (1949-1950). In 1948 at the age of 21, he performed in the First International Jazz Festival in Paris with McGhee, sharing the stage with Coleman Hawkins, Slam Stewart, and Erroll Garner. Called “Little Bird” because of the similarity in his playing to Charlie Parker, Heath switched to tenor in the early ’50s. Although out of action for a few years due to “personal problems,” Heath wrote for Chet Baker and Art Blakey during 1956-1957. Back in action in 1959, he worked with Miles Davis briefly that year, in addition to Kenny Dorham and Gil Evans, and started a string of impressive recordings for Riverside. In the 1960s, Heath frequently teamed up with Milt Jackson and Art Farmer, and he also worked as an educator and a freelance arranger. Heath teamed up with brothers Percy and Tootie in the Heath Brothers between 1975-1982, and since then has remained active as a saxophonist and writer. During his career, Jimmy Heath has performed on more than 100 record albums including seven with The Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader. Jimmy has also written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards and have been recorded by other artists including Farmer, Jackson, Davis, Baker, Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, James Moody, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Charles, J.J Johnson and Dexter Gordon. He has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years. Jimmy has also composed extended works – seven suites and two string quartets – and he premiered his first symphonic work, “Three Ears,” in 1988 at Queens College (CUNY) with Maurice Peress conducting.

After having just concluded eleven years as Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Heath maintains an extensive performance schedule and continues to conduct workshops and clinics throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada. He has also taught jazz studies at Jazzmobile, Housatonic College, City College of New York, and The New School for Social Research.


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