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Jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath

Jimmy Heath (1926–2020), legendary jazz saxophonist

by Kirk Fox

Jimmy Heath was a legendary jazz saxophonist who played with jazz giants John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Heath, who stood 5-foot-3-inches, was called “Little Bird,” an homage to legendary sax player Charlie “Bird” Parker and a tribute to Heath’s skill. Overcoming an addiction to heroin, Heath was a prolific musician for over seven decades and a pioneer of be-bop. He later taught music at Queens College.

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Died: Sunday, January 19, 2020 (Who else died on January 19?)

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Details of death: Died at the age of 93.


Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.


Heath on his love of jazz: “I’m going to do this until I leave. This is all I love. It’s a matter of love. If you love what you do, and you can make a living at it, What’s better?” —According to NPR

What they said about him: “Moses is dead. The tablets are still here. Well, Jimmy Heath read the commandments of jazz, and he got the tablets from the great prophets. And he used it his way to great benefit, and he even fed it back towards the prophets. You know, Miles Davis used his stuff. Charlie Parker used his stuff. And John Coltrane was nurtured by Jimmy Heath.” —Jazz at Lincoln Center curator Phil Schaap, as told to NPR

“RIP Jimmy Heath… the great saxophonist has passed away at age 93. What an incredible life in jazz!” —Blue Note Records

Full obituary: NPR

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