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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"I have long admired Jimmy's passion heard so clearly in his music; he is a soulful musician and a consummate educator. In these pages he gives a new voice to his love of life and music. He once told Dr. Camille Cosby that ‘our history is a mystery,’ so here he pulls back the veil and sets forth a wonderful collection of reminiscences culled from a long life of accumulated wisdom." 
—Nancy Wilson, song stylist

"A masterpiece that will stand out as a classic for years to come." 
—Douglas Henry Daniels, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young

"Jimmy Heath is the hippest, coolest, deepest, wittiest, most in-the-pocket and on-the-money, bebop-brained, backward-absorbing, forward-looking, constantly sharing saxophonist, flutist, educator, composer, arranger, bandleader, sideman, jam-man, and now memoirist any of us will ever know. It is typical of Jimmy to call his autobiography I Walked with Giants, but make no mistake: He, too, is a giant, and all the other giants know it. This book is a treasure for jazz lovers, by a man who has been at the center of jazz for sixty years, ever since he was a Little Bird." 
—Gary Giddins, author of Jazz (with Scott DeVeaux), Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, and Visions of Jazz

Publishers Weekly
Over a long career, from the big-band era to today's contemporary sound, Philadelphia-born jazz saxophonist Heath puts all of the peaks and valleys of a rigorous professional life in a unique memoir that speaks volumes to the values of discipline, tradition, and perseverance. Aided by a foreword by jazz fan Bill Cosby and an introduction by top brass man Wynton Marsalis, Heath's story is told in a classic call-and-response manner, with his family members and fellow musicians such as Benny Golson, Clark Terry, Barry Harris, and Art Farmer chiming in about the quality of the man and the performer who rose through the musical ranks to become a peerless arranger-composer of big bands and small groups. His struggles with drugs, shady club owners, Jim Crow, and his work and influence with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Dexter Gordon are discussed candidly, along with his popular work with his famed brothers, Percy and Tootie in the 1970s. A true jazz milestone, this bold account by Heath and Hofstra English professor McLaren further illuminates the seldom-told story of our creative homegrown music. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Heath, with McLaren (English, Hofstra Univ.; Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921–1943), tells a life story that is inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable. Rising up through the big band era, absorbing the ideas of the beboppers in the mid-1940s, and continuing to embrace changes in jazz from the 1960s through the 1990s, Heath has produced sought-after compositions and arrangements and, as a teacher, has shared his love of the principles of jazz with thousands of students. Now an elder statesman who remains active, he writes of how his supportive family life allowed him to succeed. His parents let him and many other musicians practice at their home, and they were steadfast even after he developed a taste for heroin in the 1950s. Beyond Heath's storytelling, the book is interwoven with comments from a number of acquaintances (mostly musicians), which helps keep the narrative moving. VERDICT This is an entirely engaging and thoughtful autobiography from one of jazz's true treasures. This richly told saga is highly recommended.—William G. Kenz, Minnesota State Univ., Moorhead\

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439901984
Publisher:
Temple University Press
Publication date:
01/28/2010
Pages:
344
Sales rank:
1,172,056
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet 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.

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