Synopses & Reviews
"Jimmy Heath is the hippest, coolest, deepest, wittiest, most in-the-pocket and on-the-money, bebop-brained, backward-absorbing, forward-looking, constantly sharing saxophonist, flutist, educator, composer, arranger, bandleader, sideman, jam-man, and now memoirist any of us will ever know. It is typical of Jimmy to call his autobiography I Walked with Giants, but make no mistake: He, too, is a giant, and all the other giants know it. This book is a treasure for jazz lovers, by a man who has been at the center of jazz for sixty years, ever since he was a Little Bird."
—Gary Giddins, author of Jazz (with Scott DeVeaux), Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, and Visions of Jazz
"A masterpiece that will stand out as a classic for years to come."
—Douglas Henry Daniels, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young
"I have long admired Jimmy's passion heard so clearly in his music; he is a soulful musician and a consummate educator. In these pages he gives a new voice to his love of life and music. He once told Dr. Camille Cosby that ‘our history is a mystery,’ so here he pulls back the veil and sets forth a wonderful collection of reminiscences culled from a long life of accumulated wisdom."
—Nancy Wilson, song stylist
Composer of more than 100 jazz pieces, three-time Grammy nominee, and performer on more than 125 albums, Jimmy Heath has earned a place of honor in the history of jazz. Over his long career, Heath knew many jazz giants such as Charlie Parker and played with other innovators including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and especially Dizzy Gillespie. Heath also won their respect and friendship.
In this extraordinary autobiography, the legendary Heath creates a “dialogue” with musicians and family members. As in jazz, where improvisation by one performer prompts another to riff on the same theme, I Walked with Giants juxtaposes Heath’s account of his life and career with recollections from jazz giants about life on the road and making music on the world’s stages. His memories of playing with his equally legendary brothers Percy and Albert (aka “Tootie”) dovetail with their recollections.
Heath reminisces about a South Philadelphia home filled with music and a close-knit family that hosted musicians performing in the city’s then thriving jazz scene. Milt Jackson recalls, “I went to their house for dinner…Jimmy’s father put Charlie Parker records on and told everybody that we had to be quiet till dinner because he had Bird on…. When I [went] to Philly, I’d always go to their house.” Today Heath performs, composes, and works as a music educator and arranger. By turns funny, poignant, and extremely candid, Heath’s story captures the rhythms of a life in jazz.
About the Author
Jimmy Heath is widely recognized as one of the greats in jazz. A saxophonist, composer, arranger, and educator, Heath grew up in Philadelphia with his renowned brothers, Percy, the longtime bassist with the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Albert “Tootie”, a highly respected drummer. The three formed the Heath Brothers Band in the ’70s. Jimmy Heath directed the Jazz Studies master’s degree program in performance at Queens College (CUNY).
Joseph McLaren is Professor of English at Hofstra University, the author of Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943, and editor of several additional titles.
Table of Contents
Foreword: In the Basement, by Bill Cosby
Introduction, by Wynton Marsalis
Part One First Chorus (1926–1949)
1. Finding a Rhythm: Philadelphia and Wilmington, North Carolina
2. Big Band Connections
3. Organizing and Melodizing
Part Two Second Chorus (1949–1969)
4. High Note–Low Note: Dizzy and Miles
5. Sharp Dissonance to Smooth Harmony with Mona
6. On the Riverside
7. Maintaining the Groove
Part Three Third Chorus (1969–1986)
8. Stretching Out: Jazz Transitions
9. Marchin’ On: The Heath Brothers
10. “For the Public”: The Heath Brothers
Part Four Fourth Chorus (1986–)
11. Reharmonization: Queens College
12. Up-Tempo Mode
13. Aroma of the Roses
14. Endless Stroll
Appendix A: Unique Names
Appendix B: Honors and Awards
Appendix C: Selected Discography
Appendix D: Compositions
Appendix E: Chronology