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I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath Hardcover – January 28, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"I have long admired Jimmy's passion heard so clearly in his music; he is a soulful musician and a consummate educator. In these pages he gives a new voice to his love of life and music. He once told Dr. Camille Cosby that ‘our history is a mystery,’ so here he pulls back the veil and sets forth a wonderful collection of reminiscences culled from a long life of accumulated wisdom." 
—Nancy Wilson, song stylist

"A masterpiece that will stand out as a classic for years to come." 
—Douglas Henry Daniels, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young

"Jimmy Heath is the hippest, coolest, deepest, wittiest, most in-the-pocket and on-the-money, bebop-brained, backward-absorbing, forward-looking, constantly sharing saxophonist, flutist, educator, composer, arranger, bandleader, sideman, jam-man, and now memoirist any of us will ever know. It is typical of Jimmy to call his autobiography I Walked with Giants, but make no mistake: He, too, is a giant, and all the other giants know it. This book is a treasure for jazz lovers, by a man who has been at the center of jazz for sixty years, ever since he was a Little Bird." 
—Gary Giddins, author of Jazz (with Scott DeVeaux), Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, and Visions of Jazz


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; 1st American Edition edition (January 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439901988
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439901984
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,121,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Temple University Press has released one of the best, most thorough jazz histories/biographies I can recall reading. I WALKED WITH GIANTS is written by and about Jimmy Heath, with Joseph McClaren and a forward by Bill Cosby. Jimmy Heath is the middle brother of the Heath Brothers: Jimmy on tenor sax, Percy on bass and Tootie (Albert) on drums.
Jimmy Heath played with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940's. Jimmy Heath was 21 when on was on stage with Coleman Hawkins, Howard McGhee, Erroll Garner and Slam Stewart before they were giants. Jimmy Heath grew up in the rich, musically fertile south, South Philly, that is.

As a composer and arranger, Jimmy Heath has made an deep, indelible groove in music. Pick a song, pick
"A Sound For Sore Ears." You will find the embodiment of Jimmy Heath within: the dexterity, wit and invention that is tapped in so many veins throughout I WALKED WITH GIANTS.

Everything is here: the music, the friends, the good times in concerts, the hard times in prison (Jimmy
sold dope to an undercover cop and did time) and the long off and on road to recognition, and finally acclaim.

I WALKED WITH GIANTS is brilliantly organized. Jimmy tells his wild stories as only he can, and he is supported throughout the book by the voices and reminiscences of Wynton Marsalis, Slide Hampton, Benny Carter, Cedar Walton, Billy Taylor, Hank Jones and a few dozen other vital musicians.

This book is a fast moving, fascinating biography of the brilliant Mr. Heath, but it is also a very strong, serious study from the inside of American history and culture in the second half of the past century. Only geniuses could have put I WALKED WITH GIANTS together so succinctly, so vividly, and only a genius could have lived it. As soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to read it again.
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Jimmy Heath is one of the few remaining jazz masters alive and still playing very well. This book covers his growing up in a musically supportive family, playing locally in Philadelphia where he played and practiced with John Coltrane.He gained valuable experience touring with territory bands. He first recorded in 1948 with Howard McGhee/Milt Jackson in '49 with Dizzy Gillespie, 1953 with Miles Davis at which time his tune C.T.A. was recorded. In 1953 he also was on sessions with J.J. Johnson and Kenny Dorham. In 1956 he arranged a number of tunes for Chet Baker on The Picture of Heath album. In 1959 he began his long relationship with Riverside Records recording with Blue Mitchell and his own album The Thumper. In 1960 in recorded with Julian Priester and began arranging for other Riverside dates. Jimmy has participated in 182 record dates between 1948-2008. The book chronicles his relationship with Columbia Records where he attempted to merge some straight ahead jazz with beats intended to appeal to younger audiences. The albums sold comparatively well for jazz, (30,000-40000). But that was not up to a big label expectations. There are many interesting quotes from musicians Jimmy has interacted with over the years such as: Benny Golson,Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant,Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Curtis Fuller,Barry Harris,Clark Terry,Ron Carter, Cedar Walton,Billy Taylor, Art Farmer,Frank Foster, Dave Bailey, Slide Hampton, Benny Carter,Sonny Rollins, Hank Jones,Benny Powell,James Moody. I particularly enjoyed the comments of Percy Heath and Jon Faddis. Quite an interesting read of jazz history. If you have the opportunity to see the Jimmy Heath Big Band live please do yourself a favor and see them. I was delighted to to have seen the band last year at Iridium and this year at the Blue Note.Read more ›
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"Nothin but the truth". That was the answer I received when I asked a friend about the performance of tenor man Jimmy Heath at a concert. If I am asked about "I walked with Giant: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath" my response will be nothing but the truth. This is a great book about the man, the music and his relationships. The book is an easy read but is moving and covers the jazz scene with depth and vision. I first heard Jimmy with Miles and JJ Johnson and his solos on CTA and I think the tune is Kelo remain classics. I had a brief encounter with Jimmy when the LBJS of D.C. featured the Heath Brothers in concert. It was a very enjoyable time. Jimmy gave me tips on how to improve my diet, "eat more sardines" he said it has some great benefits. He also made comments about Mickey Rivers, the Yankee centerfielder at the time. Jimmy commented that Rivers could not keep still in the batters box, how he kept moving his feet. I bring this up because he mentions Bernie Williams in his book reflecting on his love of baseball and attention to detail. When I first started listening to jazz and got into the lore about the music and the musicians I had heard a lot about Jimmy Heath doing 10 years for smoking grass and I was outraged along with a lot of other people. This book does not mention anything about this and goes on to give an honest history of his ordeaols with drugs. The book deals openly with interracial relationships in jazz. I am happy to see/read a book like this about jazz and one of the giants who contributed so much to the art form.
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