I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath

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 greats, 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 autobiography, the legendary Heath creates a "dialogue" with musicians and family members. As in jazz, where

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I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath

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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 greats, 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 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.

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Editorial Reviews

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\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439901984
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2010
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 532,429
  • 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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Table of Contents

Foreword: In the Basement, by Bill Cosby 
Acknowledgments

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

Appendixes 
Appendix A: Unique Names 
Appendix B: Honors and Awards 
Appendix C: Selected Discography 
Appendix D: Compositions 
Appendix E: Chronology 
Index

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