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Jimmy Heath: A Little Bird Told Me

The saxophonist looks back on highlights from a brilliant career that’s still very much in progress

Jimmy Heath honors his friend and Riverside Records employer Orrin Keepnews at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in September (photo by Alan Nahigian)
Jimmy Heath honors his friend and Riverside Records employer Orrin Keepnews at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in September (photo by Alan Nahigian)
Jimmy Heath performs with the Heath Brothers at New York’s Rockefeller Center in June 1977 (photo by Tom Marcello)
Jimmy Heath performs with the Heath Brothers at New York’s Rockefeller Center in June 1977 (photo by Tom Marcello)
Jimmy Heath with Clark Terry (left) and Wynton Marsalis at Red Rodney’s memorial in June 1994; Saint Peter's Church, New York City (photo by Alan Nahigian)
Jimmy Heath with Clark Terry (left) and Wynton Marsalis at Red Rodney’s memorial in June 1994; Saint Peter's Church, New York City (photo by Alan Nahigian)
Jimmy Heath in 1961, a year after releasing his first large-ensemble album, "Really Big!" (photo by Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images)
Jimmy Heath in 1961, a year after releasing his first large-ensemble album, "Really Big!" (photo by Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images)
Heath Brothers: "Marchin' On"
Heath Brothers: "Marchin' On"
Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson: "Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson"
Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson: "Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson"
Jimmy Heath: "Little Man Big Band"
Jimmy Heath: "Little Man Big Band"
Jimmy Heath: "Picture of Heath"
Jimmy Heath: "Picture of Heath"
The Jimmy Heath Big Band: "Turn Up the Heath"
The Jimmy Heath Big Band: "Turn Up the Heath"
Jimmy Heath Quintet: "On the Trail"
Jimmy Heath Quintet: "On the Trail"
Kenny Dorham Quintet: "Kenny Dorham Quintet"
Kenny Dorham Quintet: "Kenny Dorham Quintet"
Ray Brown/Milt Jackson: "Ray Brown/Milt Jackson"
Ray Brown/Milt Jackson: "Ray Brown/Milt Jackson"
The Jimmy Heath Orchestra: "Really Big!"
The Jimmy Heath Orchestra: "Really Big!"
Art Farmer: "Time and Place"
Art Farmer: "The Time and the Place"

If you wanted to play “Six Degrees of Jimmy Heath,” you could keep going for quite a while.

Here’s just one way to start a round: In 1948 Heath led a big band in Philadelphia, for which he hired John Coltrane. The two saxophonists joined Dizzy Gillespie’s band the following year. Four years after that, when Heath was playing with Miles Davis in the Symphony Sid All-Stars, he introduced the trumpeter to his former employee. Within the last three sentences, jazz history has been made several times over.

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