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Percy Heath and Jimmy (1977)

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.



Jimmy 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 sax. [1]

He returned to work with Miles Davis in 1959. He went on to introduce John Coltrane to Miles. Then with Kenny Dorham and Gil Evans. He 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]

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

In the 1980s, he 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 many outstanding 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 home there.[2] Mr. Heath continued his association with the College until recently. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Human Letters.[3]

He frequently performs master classes in New York City and teaches his love for the saxophone.

He is the father of R&B songwriter/musician James Mtume.



As leader

As sideman

With Continuum


  1. ^ a b c d e Allmusic biography
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^
  4. ^ Milt Jackson discography
  5. ^ Allmusic review

External links


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