Jimmy "Little Bird" Heath
born on 25/10/1926 in Philadelphia, PA, United States
died on 19/1/2020
James Edward Heath (born October 25, 1926), nicknamed Little Bird, is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger and big band leader. 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.
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 Philly 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.
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.
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 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. In addition to teaching at Queens College for over twenty years, he has also taught at Jazzmobile. Heath was a recipient of the 2003 NEA Jazz Masters Award. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Human Letters.
Heath is the father of R&B songwriter/musician James Mtume.
He received Grammy nomination for box set liner notes of The Heavyweight Champion, John Coltrane, the Complete Atlantic Recordings (Rhino), 1995, Grammy nomination for Little Man Big Band (Verve), 1994 and for Live at the Public Theatre (Columbia), with The Heath Brothers, 1980.
- 1959: The Thumper (Riverside)
- 1960: Really Big! (Riverside)
- 1961: The Quota (Riverside)
- 1962: Triple Threat (Riverside)
- 1963: Swamp Seed (Riverside)
- 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)
- 2014: Togetherness (Jazz Legacy Productions)
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)
- 1948: Howard McGhee – Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson (Savoy)
- 1953: J. J. Johnson - All Stars (with Clifford Brown) (Blue Note) reissued as The Eminent J.J. Johnson Vol 1 (1957)
- 1953: Miles Davis - Miles Davis Volume 2 (Blue Note) reissued mostly on Miles Davis Vol 1 - 12 inch LP
- 1954: Kenny Dorham - Kenny Dorham Quintet (Debut)
- 1959: Blue Mitchell – Blue Soul (Riverside)
- 1960: Julian Priester – Keep Swingin' (Riverside)
- 1960: Sam Jones – The Soul Society (Riverside)
- 1960: Nat Adderley – That's Right! (Riverside)
- 1960: Kenny Dorham – Showboat (Time)
- 1961: Don Sleet - All Members (Jazzland)
- 1961: Sam Jones - Plus 10: The Chant (Riverside)
- 1961: Milt Jackson – Vibrations (Atlantic)
- 1961: Freddie Hubbard - Hub Cap (Blue Note)
- 1961: Elmo Hope – Homecoming! (Riverside)
- 1962: Blue Mitchell – A Sure Thing (Riverside)
- 1962: Sam Jones - Down Home (Riverside)
- 1962: Curtis Fuller – Soul Trombone (Impulse!)
- 1962: Milt Jackson – Big Bags (Riverside)
- 1962: Milt Jackson – Invitation (Riverside)
- 1962: Pony Poindexter – Pony's Express (Epic)
- 1962: Milt Jackson – Statements (Impulse!)
- 1963: Milt Jackson – Milt Jackson Quintet Live at the Village Gate (Riverside)
- 1964: Milt Jackson – Jazz 'n' Samba (Impulse!)
- 1964: Milt Jackson – In a New Setting (Limelight)
- 1965: Milt Jackson – Ray Brown / Milt Jackson with Ray Brown (Verve)
- 1965: Donald Byrd – Up with Donald Byrd (Verve)
- 1965: Carmell Jones - Jay Hawk Talk (Prestige)
- 1965: Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce (Verve)
- 1965: Herbie Mann - Latin Mann (Columbia)
- 1966: Milt Jackson – Born Free (Limelight)
- 1966: Art Farmer - The Time and the Place: The Lost Concert (Mosaic) - released 2007
- 1967: Art Farmer - The Time and the Place (Columbia)
- 1967: Art Farmer - The Art Farmer Quintet Plays the Great Jazz Hits (Columbia)
- 1970: Herbie Mann – Big Boss Mann
- 1970: Charles Earland – Black Drops (Prestige)
- 1970: Charles Tolliver - Music Inc. (Strata-East)
- 1971: Art Farmer - Homecoming (Mainstream)
- 1971: Red Garland - The Quota (MPS)
- 1972: Curtis Fuller – Smokin' (Mainstream)
- 1972: Don Patterson – These Are Soulful Days (Muse)
- 1973: Albert Heath - Kwanza (The First) (Muse)
- 1974: Red Garland – The Quota
- 1974: Milt Jackson – Olinga (CTI)
- 1976: Stanley Cowell – Regeneration (Strata-East)
- 1983: Don Sickler - The Music of Kenny Dorham (Reservoir)
- 1994: Modern Jazz Quartet – MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (Atlantic)
- 2003: Gerald Wilson - New York, New Sound (Mack Avenue)
- 2006: Nancy Wilson – Turned to Blue
- 1980: Mad About Tadd (Palo Alto Records)
- Allmusic biography
- Porter, Lewis. John Coltrane: His Life and Music Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. ISBN 9780472101610.
- 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 2018-01-01.
- 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."
- CUNY.edu Archived September 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- 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.
- Allmusic review
- Official website
- Brotherly Jazz:The Heath Brothers - DVD Documentary
- Jimmy Heath's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- B.S.O Chico y Rita Film.