Heath in 1998
|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|
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.
2 Personal life
3 Awards and legacy
5.1 As leader
5.2 With the Heath Brothers
5.3 As sideman
7 External links
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. His sister was a pianist, while his brothers were bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert Heath (his youngest sibling).
Heath originally played alto saxophone, but, after the influence of Charlie Parker on his work for Howard McGhee and Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940s, he earned the nickname "Little Bird" (Parker's nickname was "Bird") and he switched to tenor saxophone.
During World War II, Heath was rejected for the draft for being under the weight limit. 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. John Coltrane was one of four saxophonists in this band, which played gigs with Charlie Parker and also at 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.
One of Heath's earliest big bands (1947-1948) in Philadelphia 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.
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 1975, he and his brothers formed the Heath Brothers, also featuring pianist Stanley Cowell.
Jimmy Heath composed "For Minors Only", "Picture of Heath", "Bruh' Slim", and "CTA" and recorded them on his 1975 album Picture of Heath.
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 over twenty 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.
Heath was the father of R&B songwriter/musician James Mtume.
In 2010 his autobiography I Walked With Giants was published by the Temple University Press. Heath stood just 5 feet, 3 inches. He notably played in a jazz concert at the White House, when President Bill Clinton himself borrowed his saxophone for one number.
Heath died on January 19, 2020 in Loganville, Georgia, of natural causes.
Awards and legacy
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).
Heath was a recipient of the 2003 NEA Jazz Masters Award. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Human Letters.
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.
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)
1994: You've Changed (SteepleChase)
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)
With the Heath Brothers
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
Up with Donald Byrd (Verve, 1965)
With Benny Carter
Over the Rainbow (MusicMasters, 1989)
With Stanley Cowell
Regeneration (Strata-East, 1976)
Mad About Tadd (Palo Alto, 1980)
With Miles Davis
Miles Davis Volume 2 (Blue Note, 1953) reissued mostly on Miles Davis Vol 1 - 12 inch LP
With Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham Quintet (Debut, 1953)
Showboat (Time, 1960)
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
Soul Trombone (Impulse!, 1962)
Smokin' (Mainstream, 1972)
With Red Garland
The Quota (MPS, 1971)
'With Bunky Green
My Babe (Vee-Jay, 1960 )
With Johnny Hartman
I've Been There (PErception, 1973)
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
The Soul Society (Riverside, 1960)
The Chant (Riverside, 1961)
Down Home (Riverside, 1962)
With Herbie Mann
Latin Mann (Columbia, 1965)
Big Boss Mann (1970)
With Howard McGhee
Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson (Savoy, 1948)
With Blue Mitchell
Blue Soul (Riverside, 1959)
A Sure Thing (Riverside, 1962)
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)
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