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 James 'Mtume', Roslyn and Jeffery. He has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, from Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. 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. 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.
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 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. 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. In October 1997, two of his former students, trumpeters Darren Barrett and Diego Urcola, placed first and second in the Thelonious Monk Competition.
Heath's enduring dedication to jazz as well as his musicianship prompted the following tributes:
"All I can say is, if you know Jimmy Heath, you know Bop." - Dizzy Gillespie
"Trane was always high on Jimmy's playing and so was I. Plus, he was a very hip dude to be with, funny and clean and very intelligent. Jimmy is one of the thoroughbreds." - Miles Davis
"My pick from the world's talent would be Diz as leader, John Lewis or Hank Jones on piano, Ray Brown bass, Milt Jackson vibes, Jimmy Heath tenor, and Sonny Stitt alto." - Kenny Clarke
"I had met Jimmy Heath, who - besides being a wonderful saxophonist - understood a lot about musical construction. I joined his group in Philadelphia in 1948. We were very much alike in our feeling, phrasing and a whole lot of other ways. Our musical appetites were the same. We used to practice together, and he would write out some of the things we were interested in. We would take things from records and digest them. In this way, we learned about the techniques being used by writers and arrangers." - John Coltrane, Downbeat, 1960
Verve Records releases Love Letter, the first all-ballads album from magisterial tenor saxophonist-composer Jimmy Heath. In addition to his original material, this elegant collection offers the jazz ambassador's beautiful take on ballad classics, and includes songs written by Billie Holiday, Mal Waldron, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, and Gordon Parks. The album also features 21stcentury vocal superstars Gregory Porter and Cécile McLorin Salvant, and trumpet icon Wynton Marsalis. Love Letter is available worldwide now and you can listen to the album here.
Jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath died this past January 19 at the age of 93. That means that he lived through just about every genre of twentieth-century jazz. His personal involvement in making jazz can be traced back to performances with both Howard McGhee and Dizzy Gillespie.
A little over a week ago Verve released his final album entitled Love Letter. There are only eight tracks, all of which are ballad classics, including songs written by Billie Holiday, Mal Waldron, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, and Gordon Parks (who is probably better known for his work in photography and film). Heath's rhythm section includes Kenny Barron on piano, David Wong on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. For some tracks the combo is augmented by Russell Malone on guitar and/or Monte Croft on vibraphone.
The album also features three "special guests." Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis joins Heath for a duo account of Dorham's "La Mesha." In addition two of the leading vocalists of the current century join the group. Both of them sing songs by Parks, "Left Alone" presented by Cécile McLorin Salvant and Gregory Porter delivering "Don't Misunderstand."
The focus of listening deserves to be centered on Heath himself. While there is no question that Heath approaches these eight tracks with keen sensitivity to the tunes themselves, there is nothing intellectual about the foundational rhetoric.
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Precious few of us get to live until age 93, even fewer can look back at that point over 76-year career, and even fewer can see a lifelong dream realized just a month before passing. The beloved saxophonist-composer Jimmy Heath certainly makes a grand exit with the final album of his career, the finishing touches to which were applied just a month before his death. Known for his expertise in rendering ballads, Heath delivers an all-ballads recital on Love Letter. Appropriately for the jazz icon, these sessions involve a star-studded multi-generational cast including NEA Jazz Master pianist Kenny Barron, acclaimed guitarist Russell Malone, soulful vibraphone veteran Monte Croft, New York first-call bassist David Wong, and all-world drummer Lewis Nash. Augmenting the group on separate tracks are 21st-century vocal superstars Gregory Porter and Cécile McLorin Salvant, and trumpet icon Wynton Marsalis.
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Verve Records releases Love Letter next Friday, the first all-ballads album from magisterial tenor saxophonist-composer Jimmy Heath. In addition to his original material, this elegant collection offers the jazz ambassador's beautiful take on ballad classics, and includes songs written by Billie Holiday, Mal Waldron, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, and Gordon Parks. The album also features 21stcentury vocal superstars Gregory Porter and Cécile McLorin Salvant, and trumpet icon Wynton Marsalis.
JazzFM's Mark Walker & Dinner Jazz is featuring Jimmy Heath - Love Letter