Jimmy Heath

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Jimmy Heath
Percy Heath & Jimmy Heath.jpg
Percy Heath and Jimmy (1977)
Background information
Birth name James Edward Heath
Also known as Little Bird
Born (1926-10-25) October 25, 1926 (age 87)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Jazz, bebop, hard bop
Occupations Musician, educator, composer, arranger
Instruments Tenor saxophone, alto saxophone
Years active 1940s–present
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
Website www.jimmyheath.com

James Edward Heath (born October 25, 1926),[1] nicknamed Little Bird, is an American jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger. He is the brother of bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert Heath.


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.[1]

He briefly joined Miles Davis's group in 1959, replacing John Coltrane, and also worked with Kenny Dorham and Gil Evans.[1][2] Heath recorded extensively as leader and sideman. During the 1960s, he frequently worked with Milt Jackson and Art Farmer.[1]

In 1975, he and his brothers formed the Heath Brothers, also featuring pianist Stanley Cowell.[1]

Heath composed most of the 1956 Chet Baker and Art Pepper album Playboys.[1]

In the 1980s, Heath joined the faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in the 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.[3] In addition to teaching at Queens College for over twenty years, he has also taught at Jazzmobile.[2] Heath was a recipient of the 2003 NEA Jazz Masters Award.[2] In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Human Letters.[4]

Heath is the father of R&B songwriter/musician James Mtume.[5]


As leader[edit]

With the Heath Brothers[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Continuum


  1. ^ a b c d e f Allmusic biography
  2. ^ a b c 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. 
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ CUNY.edu
  5. ^ National Endowment for the Arts. "NEA Jazz Masters: Jimmy Heath". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  6. ^ Allmusic review

External links[edit]