Jimmy Heath

James Edward Heath, October 25, 1926 – January 19, 2019, also known as Little Bird, was an American jazz composer, arranger, and saxophonist. Percy Heath was his brother and Albert Heath was his drummer. Heath was born October 25, 1926 in Philadelphia. Heath was originally an alto saxophone player. However, his influence by Charlie Parker’s work for Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie and Dizzy Gillespie in late 1940s earned him the nickname “Little Bird”. (Parker’s nickname is “Bird”), and he moved to tenor. Heath was refused entry to the draft during World War II because he was under the weight limit. He performed with the Nat Towles Band from late 1945 to most of 1946. He formed his own band in 1946, which was a staple of the Philly jazz scene up until 1949. John Coltrane was among the four saxophonists of this band. They played gigs at Charlie Parker’s Apollo Theater in Harlem and also at the Apollo Theater. Heath says that the band did record a few demos on cassette, but it never released recordings and its arrangements were lost at Chicago’s train station. In 1949, the band was disbanded so Heath could join Dizzy’s Gillespie’s group. Heath was part of one of the earliest big bands in Philadelphia (1947-1948), which included John Coltrane and Benny Golson as well as Specs Wright, Cal Massey and Johnny Coles. Ray Bryant and Nelson Boyd were also among them. Max Roach and Charlie Parker were present on one occasion. Heath was a known addict and was twice convicted of selling heroin. In the spring 1954, Heath was arrested and convicted for selling heroin. He was then sent to Lexington, Kentucky’s federal Prison Hospital, where he was treated by many celebrities and musicians. He was still addicted and was released in early 1955. He served the majority of his six-year sentence in Lewisburg. He decided to go cold turkey and could spend much of his time listening to music. He actually wrote most of the 1956 Chet Baker/Art Pepper album Playboys while in prison. He was released on May 21, 1959 and has been clean since. Although probation conditions made it difficult, he still managed to rebuild his career. He met Mona Brown in 1960 at a party to welcome home his wife. They had two children together, Roslyn (and Jeffrey) respectively. In 1959, he briefly joined Miles Davis’s band, replacing Coltrane. He also worked with Kenny Dorham, Gil Evans, and Kenny Dorham. Heath was both a leader and sideman on numerous recordings. He often worked with Milt Jackson, Art Farmer and other musicians during the 1960s. He and his brothers founded the Heath Brothers in 1975. They also featured pianist Stanley Cowell. [1] Jimmy Heath wrote “For Minors Only”, “Picture of Heath”, “Bruh’ Slim”, and “CTA”, and they were recorded on his 1975 album Picture of Heath. Heath was appointed to the Aaron Copland school of music at Queens College, City University of New York in the 1980s. He was promoted to Professor and led the creation of Queens College’s Jazz Program. This program attracted many prominent musicians like Donald Byrd. He was also a member of the Board of the Louis Armstrong Archives, which is located on campus. Also, he managed the restoration and management of the Louis u0026 Lucille Armstrong Residence in Corona (Queens), near his home. He has taught Jazzmobile and Queens College for more than twenty years. Heath was a 2003 recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters in 2004. He published his autobiography, I Walked With Giants, on Temple University Press in 2010. Heath was also the father and founder of R.

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