The title of Heath’s new autobiography, I Walked With Giants, is apt. The 83-year-old tenor saxophonist and composer, who made his bones in Philadelphia in the city’s post-World War II jazz heyday, has crossed paths and jammed with the best. He caught the jazz bug after seeing Duke Ellington at the old Pearl Theatre, followed by Dizzy Gillespie at the Academy of Music in 1945. A year later, he formed the Jimmy Heath Orchestra with John Coltrane. The rest of his musical history reads like a who’s who of jazz greats: Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Gillespie (who fired Heath from his big band for heroin use) and Donald Byrd, to name just a few. More than 100 compositions, 125 recordings and three Grammy nominations later, Heath — currently living in New York — is the last man standing to talk about it all. Hear him do so at the Free Library on February 18th.
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