Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

Oct. 24, 2002

Pre-Eminent Jazz Saxophonist Jimmy Heath to Perform with Whitworth Jazz Ensemble

Legendary tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, whose career has spanned more than 50 years and has included performances with jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Wynton Marsalis, will display his inimitable style in a concert Nov. 9 with the award-winning Whitworth Jazz Ensemble.

"Trane (saxophonist John Coltrane) was always high on Jimmy's playing and so was I," trumpeter Miles Davis once said of Heath, with whom Davis performed. "Plus, he's a very hip dude to be with - funny, clean and very intelligent. Jimmy is one of the thoroughbreds."

Heath and the Whitworth College Jazz Ensemble, which has won first place at the University of Idaho's Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival four times in the last six years, will perform Saturday, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m. in Cowles Auditorium at Whitworth College. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Ticketswest at (509) 325-SEAT, through the Whitworth Music Office at (509) 777-3280, or at the door the evening of the concert.

In addition to his Saturday evening performance, Heath will conduct a saxophone clinic for Whitworth students, Spokane-area students, and the general public on Friday, Nov. 8, at 5:15 p.m. in the Music Building Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Heath, along with his brothers and fellow musicians Percy and Albert "Tootie" Heath, hails from Philadelphia, where he began his music career just out of high school in the late 1940s as an alto saxophonist. He earned the nickname "Little Bird" from his idol, Charlie "Bird" Parker, and in 1946 Heath formed a big band that included jazz icons Davis, Coltrane, Benny Golson, Chet Baker and Ray Charles.

In 1951 Heath switched to tenor sax and joined Dizzy Gillespie's 1950s band, with which he played for a number of years. Heath is also an accomplished soprano saxophonist and flutist, as well as an arranger and composer whose originals include C.T.A. and his most famous composition, Gingerbread Boy.

"If you had to define jazz, and to offer a sample of its integrity, you might point to the diminutive Heath," wrote critic David Perry in a Lowell Sun review. "Had one never heard the music, but read all the standard adjectives associated with it - cool, improvisational, challenging - one could walk right into a room Heath is playing in and feel at home."

Heath has performed on more than 100 record albums, including 10 as lead musician. During his extensive career, he has composed more than 100 works, many of which have become jazz standards and have been recorded by other artists, including Art Farmer, Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Dexter Gordon. In addition, he has composed extended works, three suites and two string quartets, and he premiered his first symphonic work, Three Ears, in 1988 at Queens College with Maurice Press conducting.

During 1975-1982, Heath teamed up with his brothers Percy and Tootie to form the Heath Brothers; the group toured and recorded seven albums. Heath has conducted workshops and jazz clinics throughout the United States, Europe and Canada. He has taught jazz studies at Jazzmobile, Housatonic College, and the New York School for Social Research, and is currently a professor in the graduate jazz studies program at Queens College, New York.

Heath's career highlights include Grammy nominations in 1980 for the Heath Brothers' "Live at the Public Theatre" (Columbia Records) and in 1993 for "Little Man Big Band" (Verve Records), which was produced by Bill Cosby. Heath also toured Europe with Jazz Masters and performed at the White House for a PBS special in 1993.

After more than 50 years of performing and composing, Heath "retains an unerring sense of swing married to a pliable approach that gives burners and ballads equal weight," according to jazz critic Geoff Chapman in a Toronto Star review.

For Heath, music is as vital and energizing in the 21st century as it was throughout the last half of the 20th. "I'm forever writing and practicing," Heath said in a Downbeat interview. "I'm a perennial student of music - that's my whole life."


Dan Keberle, professor of music and director of the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4582 or dkeberle@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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