I Walked with Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath

I Walked with Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath


By (author) Jimmy Heath, By (author) Joseph McLaren, Foreword by Bill Cosby

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  • Publisher: Temple University Press,U.S.
  • Format: Hardback | 344 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 226mm x 30mm | 590g
  • Publication date: 28 January 2010
  • Publication City/Country: Philadelphia PA
  • ISBN 10: 1439901988
  • ISBN 13: 9781439901984
  • Sales rank: 985,727

Product description

Composer of more than 100 jazz pieces, three-time Grammy nominee, and performer on more than 125 albums, Jimmy Heath 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. Heath also won their respect and 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. 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 and the author of Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943, and editor of several additional titles.

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Review quote

"Heath, with McLaren tells a life story that is inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable... 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." Library Journal, 1st Nov 2009 "Heath's milestone is the release of his humorous and poignant autobiography...the compelling story of a musician who began his career at the height of the bebop era... This book ranks up there with some of the best jazz autobiographies ever written, such as Duke Ellington's Music Is my Mistress and Dizzy Gillespie's To Be or Not to Bop. It's a superb story of a great musician and the times he's lived through." - The Wire May 2010 "Heath's own recounting of life on the road with the Nat Towles Big Band and its many trials with difficult travels in the days of Jim Crow racism is in itself historically important. The stories of his own development as an early bebopper known as "Little Bird" with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and John Coltrane add further insight into that most important period of jazz history. Heath doesn't mince words when speaking of his drug addiction, incarceration or the unpleasant aspects of the music business and it is his unabashed honesty that is a great part of the book's refreshing charm. Yet overall this is a tome of a life full of great joy and few regrets." - AllAboutJazz

Table of contents

Foreword: "In the Basement," Bill Cosby; Introduction: Wynton Marsalis PART ONE: FIRST CHORUS (1926-1949) 1: Finding a Rhythm: Philadelphia and Wilmington, NC; 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 Appendices; Unique Names; Honors and Awards; Selected Discography; Compositions; Chronology; Acknowledgments; Index