Celebrating the life and accomplishments of James E. Heath, gifted musician, prolific composer and arranger, and influential educator

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Senate Resolution No. 2745

BY: Senator RAMOS

CELEBRATING the life and accomplishments of James
E. Heath, gifted musician, prolific composer and
arranger, and influential educator

WHEREAS, It is the sense of this Legislative Body to honor and pay
just tribute to those musical geniuses whose commitment and creative
talents contributed to the entertainment and cultural enrichment of
their community and the entire State of New York; and

WHEREAS, This Legislative Body is moved this day to memorialize the
purposeful life and career of James E. Heath, a prominent figure in the
history of jazz music, who died in Loganville, Georgia, on Sunday,
January 19, 2020, at the age of 93; and

WHEREAS, James Edward Heath was born to clarinetist, Percy, and
singer, Arlethia Heath on October 25, 1926, in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania; following in his parent's footsteps, he began playing the
alto saxophone at the young age of 14; and

WHEREAS, James E. Heath soon became a prominent fixture in the jazz
circles of late 1940s Philadelphia, and was nicknamed "Little Bird" for
his small stature and as a nod to his mentor, bebop pioneer Charlie
"Bird" Parker; and

WHEREAS, During this time, James E. Heath taught himself to read and
compose music, and before long, he was creating melodies for a 16-piece
band of his own; and

WHEREAS, At the age of 22, James E. Heath moved to New York, and
reinvented his sound by switching to the tenor saxophone, thereby
producing a deeper, richer sound; and

WHEREAS, Just as his career began to flourish, James E. Heath went
through a period of great turmoil in the mid-1950s; after overcoming
much diversity, he married the former Mona Brown, and together, the
couple moved to Corona, Queens; and

WHEREAS, With a renewed purpose, James E. Heath did some freelance
arranging work, released six albums on the Riverside label, and
eventually became a staff arranger for the record company; and

WHEREAS, In 1964, James E. Heath took a departure from recording,
and became a founding faculty member of Jazzmobile, an organization
which presented concerts and classes to young people in Harlem, New
York; and

WHEREAS, Ten years later, James E. Heath and his brothers, Percy and
Albert "Tootie" formed the Heath Brothers, and later, received a Grammy
nomination for its album Live at the Public Theater; and

WHEREAS, During the 1980s, James E. Heath wrote and composed music,
developed a graduate program of jazz studies at Queens College, and

organized and led the annual Queens Jazz Orchestra Concert for 12 years;

WHEREAS, In later years, James E. Heath wrote, arranged and
performed as a soloist on Little Man, Big Band, and appeared on more
than 100 recordings; and

WHEREAS, In 2006, a documentary about James E. Heath and his
brothers, "Brotherly Jazz," was released, and four years later, he
published his autobiography, "I Walked With Giants"; and

WHEREAS, For his profound impact in the progression of jazz music,
James E. Heath was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades
including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of
America; he also received an honorary doctorate in music from the
Julliard School of Music, was nominated for two additional Grammy
awards, and was named the 2003 American Jazz Master by the Jazz
Foundation of America; and

WHEREAS, Predeceased by his son, Jeffrey, and his brother, Percy,
James E. Heath is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Mona; one
son, James Mtume; one daughter, Roslyn Heath-Cammorto; one brother,
Albert Heath; seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren; as
well as numerous fans, fellow musicians, and jazz lovers from across the
globe; and

WHEREAS, An inspiration to many, it is the intent of this
Legislative Body to inscribe upon its records this loving tribute to the
memory of jazz music legend James E. Heath, that future generations may
know and appreciate his extraordinary and innovative career, and the
respect and esteem in which he was held; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to
celebrate the life and accomplishments of James E. Heath, gifted
musician, prolific composer and arranger, and influential educator; and
be it further

RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be
transmitted to the family of James E. Heath.


  • 05 / Feb / 2020
  • 11 / Feb / 2020
  • 11 / Feb / 2020

Resolution Details

Law Section:
Resolutions, Legislative


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