I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath

I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath

by Jimmy Heath, Joseph McLaren


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Composer of more than 100 jazz pieces, three-time Grammy nominee, and performer on more than 125 albums, saxophonist 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. Along the way, Heath won both their respect and their 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439901984
Publisher: Temple University Press
Publication date: 01/28/2010
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 786,380
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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 

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