Jimmy "Little Bird" Heath

Classical Academy | Jazz & Blues Performer


"Little Bird" came from the Heath family, a veritable tribe of jazz greats - his brother Percy was a bassist and his brother Albert a drummer. Jimmy himself is a talented saxophonist, composer and arranger, once member of the great Miles Davis's group where he replaced the legendary John Coltrane.


He started out playing alto saxophone before switching to the tenor sax - this was due to the influence of Charlie Parker while the pair were working with Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940s and lent Jimmy his nickname: Charlie was Bird, Jimmy was Little Bird. Eventually the family teamed up musically, creating the Heath Brothers (along with pianist Stanley Cowell) in 1975. Playing across genres - hard bop and big band to smooth jazz and even hip hop, the band also had to deal with the socio-political issues facing many jazz musicians at the time.


Still performing with brother Albert after Percy's death, Jimmy spent much of the past few decades passing on the legacy of jazz through teaching, creating the Jazz Program at Queens College in New York and doing much great work for the restoration and management of the Louis Armstrong Archives on Campus.


Now listen to Jimmy Heath doing what he does best: live jazz with our Little Bird playlist. Find out more about the big Bird with our special feature on Charlie Parker or discover more about the man whoJimmy worked hard to remember at Queens, Satchmo. Think you know your Bird from your Little Bird? Dig deeper into jazz with our article on how the Chicago Blues influenced the Rolling Stones.