Renowned instrumentalist / composer / arranger JIMMY HEATH’s ensemble (1947-1948) in Philadelphia included John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Specs Wright, Cal Massey, Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant and Nelson Boyd, and became a “feeder” to Dizzy Gillespie’s big band at the time. Charlie Parker (“Science and soul,” says Jimmy) sat in on one occasion. Jimmy remembers that during their frequent rehearsals in the living / dining room of his parents’ home, they never had a complaint from neighbors on either side, implying the closeness of the community. As middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (bassist Percy Heath and Tootie Heath, drums), his family was always “Very accepting that they wanted to be Jazz musicians.”
From Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath has performed with the Jazz greats of the last 50 years. In 1948, at the age of 21, he performed in the First International Jazz Festival in Paris, sharing the stage with Coleman Hawkins, Slam Stewart and Erroll Garner, and has performed on more than 100 recordings including seven with the Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader. Jimmy has written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards. He has also composed extended works – seven suites and two string quartets – and he premiered his first symphonic work, “Three Ears,” in 1988.
After concluding 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 also taught Jazz studies at Jazzmobile (believing that you must “Get the music to the kids early”), City College of New York, and The New School.
Jimmy received Grammy nominations for 1995’s The Heavyweight Champion, John Coltrane, the Complete Atlantic Recordings (liner notes), and his own Little Man Big Band (1994) and 1980’s Live at the Public Theatre with The Heath Brothers. He has presented Master Classes at Julliard (NYC); was featured in the AT&T Jazz Tour of 10 southern schools of the Organizations of Jazz at African American Colleges and Universities; conducted the National Guild Youth Jazz Band at the National Festival of the Arts in Philadelphia; adjudicated the Saxophone Competition at the annual Thelonious Monk Competition in Washington, D.C.; performed “Sweet Jazzmobile” for choir and big band as well as other commissioned works at Lincoln Center, Howard University, Queens College and Town Hall (NYC). He was honored at the JazzTimes Convention (“Give My Regards to Broad Street, Salute to the Heath Brothers”) in NYC; received a Life Achievement Award from Jazz Foundation of America; received the Living Legends Jazz Award from Philadelphia’s Afro-American Historical & Cultural Museum; and was elected to Temple University’s Jazz Hall of Fame and Broad Street’s Walk of Fame by the Philadelphia Music Alliance.
Jimmy senses “Music comes from in the air…it’s just there, all around us.” Concerning the Philadelphia Real Book, he says Philadelphia has “A great history…(that) needs to be revealed, presented to the world.”