Jimmy Heath, Prolific Jazz Saxophonist and Composer, Dead at 93

Jimmy Heath, Prolific Jazz Saxophonist and Composer, Dead at 93

Jimmy Heath, The Prolific Jazz Saxophonist Who Mentored John Coltrane, is Dead at 93

(Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Heath died of natural causes at his home in Georgia this morning.

Jimmy Heath, the prolific jazz saxophonist whose career spanned seven decades as a composer and bandleader, has died. He was 93-years-old.

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According to NPR, Heath passed this morning surrounded by family at his home in Loganville, Georgia. Dubbed “Little Bird” by his friends and peers (a hat tip to the late Charlie Parker,) Heath was a prominent fixture in Philadelphia’s big band circuit in the late 1940s with line-ups that featured Benny Golson and a young John Coltrane.

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In the following decade, after a six-year stint for selling heroin, Heath cleaned up and was tapped by Miles Davis to replace Coltrane in his group. After a short stay in Davis’ band, Heath went on to work extensively, as both a lead and a sideman, with Donald Byrd, Stanley Cowell, Nat Adderley, Charles Earland, and his brothers Percy and Albert, composing hundreds of songs throughout his career and contributing to more than 75 studio albums from jazz giants and pioneers over the years.

Heath’s survived by his wife, Mona, children, Roslyn, Jeffrey, and James (Mtume,) and grandchildren.


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