BMI is saddened by the passing of tenor saxophonist and jazz great, Jimmy Heath. Having achieved the highest honor bestowed upon a jazz musician, the title of NEA Jazz Master, Heath was known for his lively and playful compositions and arrangements, expertly and seamlessly knowing exactly where and when to play to keep audiences spellbound throughout his storied career. Along with working with many other jazz giants, including Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, in the ‘70s, Heath joined his older brother, Percy, a bassist, and his younger brother, Albert, “Tootie,” a drummer, to form the distinctive sound of the Heath Brothers, adding a unique twist to the new music entering the world of jazz at the time. As an educator, in 1964, Heath became a founding faculty member at Jazzmobile, presenting concerts and classes to young people in Harlem. He also helped create Queens College’s jazz studies program.
In addition to these many commitments, Heath also maintained a special relationship with both BMI and the BMI Foundation, mentoring aspiring jazz musicians. Patrick Cook, BMI’s Senior Director representing the jazz genre, had this to say about the iconic composer: “Jimmy was one of the most kind, generous, and awesomely talented jazz artists I’ve ever known. He was also a great friend and spokesman for BMI, whether it was helping choose the winner of the Future Jazz Masters Award, being a judge for the BMI Foundation’s Charlie Parker Award, teaching at the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, or always being on hand for advice and guidance for upcoming new artists. He was always there for us, and we were always there for him. He will be greatly missed.”