[JPL] Percy Heath Dies
drjazz at drjazz.com
Fri Apr 29 10:04:17 EDT 2005
Percy Heath Dies
Daily News Headlines
Percy Heath, the bassist for the Modern Jazz Quartet and oldest brother of
the jazz family the Heath Brothers, died Thursday in Southampton, N.Y., of
bone cancer. He was 81. Amazingly, Heath's two musical brothers,
saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Tootie, performed at the New Orleans Jazz &
Heritage Festival on Thursday, honoring their brother's musical legacy.
As the bass player in the Modern Jazz Quartet for more than 40 years,
Heath's immortality is guaranteed. The oldest brother in a remarkable
musical family that includes Jimmy (saxophone) and Albert "Tootie" Heath
(drums), Percy was born in Wilmington, N.C., on April 30, 1923, and was
raised in Philadelphia. He started on violin, then switched to bass in
1946, which he studied at the Granoff School of Music. The following year,
Heath was working in New York with his brother, Jimmy, in trumpeter Howard
McGhee's band. After that he played with Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, J.J.
Johnson, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown
and Horace Silver.
In 1951, he replaced Ray Brown in a quartet led by pianist John Lewis and
vibist Milt Jackson, which the following year became the Modern Jazz
Quartet. Heath's elegant bass lines and logical solos have anchored that
esteemed group for more than 40 years, except for a period during the 1970s
when the group disbanded. In 1975, Percy started playing piccolo bass in a
family band with Jimmy, Tootie and Stanley Cowell called the Heath Brothers.
Recommended recordings: Marchin' On (Strata East); Passing Thru (Columbia).
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