Jimmy “Little Bird” Heath

Jimmy “Little Bird” Heath

Birth
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 19 Jan 2020 (aged 93)
Loganville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, USA
Burial Burial Details Unknown
Memorial ID 206426620 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Musician, Composer and Bandleader. In a career that spanned seven decades, Heath, a saxophonist, was an influential musician and composer who helped bring bebop into the 21st century, writing hundreds of compositions that were performed by his own bands and others, such as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Born James Edward Heath into a musical family, his father played clarinet and his mother sang in a church choir. His sister Elizabeth played piano, his older brother Percy played violin and bass, and his younger brother Tootie played drums. In the early 1940s, Jimmy played with jazz orchestras and was a key part of the generation of players who bridged the classic big-band style with the more exploratory and freeform mode of bebop. Standing 5'3", his colleagues called him "Little Bird" for sharing an alto saxophone style with Charlie Parker, who was known as "Bird." Like Parker, Heath struggled with heroin addiction, and following two sets of drugs charges, he was sentenced to six years in prison in 1955, but was released early in 1959. With his touring career curtailed by his probation terms, he focused on studio work, and also became an arranger for artists including Ray Charles. His compositions were played by stars including Chet Baker, whose album 'Playboys' is made up of predominantly Heath pieces. Heath played in groups under Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, JJ Johnson and more, and was a featured sax soloist on albums by Benny Carter, Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Nancy Wilson and many others. As a solo artist and bandleader, he recorded more than two dozen albums, among them 'The Thumper' (1959), 'Really Big!' (1960), 'Swamp Seed' (1963), 'The Gap Sealer' (1972), 'Picture of Heath' (1975), 'Peer Pressure' (1987), 'You or Me' (1995), 'Endless Search' (2010) and 'My Ideal' (2014). He also formed a fusion band, the Heath Brothers, with his brothers Percy and Tootie, and founded the jazz program at New York’s Queens College, where he taught for 20 years. In 2003, Heath was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Bio by: Louis du Mort


Advertisement

See more Heath memorials in:

Advertisement

How famous was Jimmy “Little Bird” Heath?

Current rating:

16 votes

Sign-in to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Louis du Mort
  • Added: 21 Jan 2020
  • Find a Grave Memorial 206426620
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Jimmy “Little Bird” Heath (26 Oct 1926–19 Jan 2020), Find a Grave Memorial no. 206426620, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Burial Details Unknown.