Home New York Report Flushing Town Hall Presents a Virtual Tribute to Jazz Legend and Queens...

Flushing Town Hall Presents a Virtual Tribute to Jazz Legend and Queens Jazz Orchestra Music Director Jimmy Heath


Tribute to feature performance and testimonials from NEA Jazz Masters, proteges, special guests, and more–Livestreamed at www.facebook.com/flushingtownhall.

Town Hall will celebrate the life and legacy of NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath, the Music Director of the Queens Jazz Orchestra, in a virtual tribute – “I’m Back Swinging Again! – on Friday, June 19 at 7:00 PM. Mr. Heath, who passed away in January at the age of 93, had been due to return to Flushing Town Hall’s stage with his orchestra that evening.

The special event will feature appearances by many celebrated musical artists who have crossed paths – and taken the stage – with Jimmy Heath throughout his storied career. Among those who are participating are Jimmy Heath’s wife, Mona, and jazz legends Albert “Tootie” Heath, Barry Harris, Jimmy Owens, and Dorthaan Kirk; and members of Queens Jazz Orchestra, including Antonio Hart, David Wang, Jeb Patton and Douglas Purviance. There also will be testimonials about Jimmy Heath from special guests such as New York City Council Member Francisco Moya.

The event will be live-streamed on Flushing Town Hall’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/flushingtownhall and feature excerpts from a previous concert by the Queens Jazz Orchestra, testimonials from family and friends, snapshots of Mr. Heath throughout his career, and several performances by his former colleagues.

The tribute also will raise funds to support the Jimmy Heath Fund at Queens College. Donations can be sent to The Jimmy Heath Fund, c/o Mike Lipsey, Queens College Music Department, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, Queens, 11367.

Donations to the Jimmy Heath Scholarship Fund at Queens College can be made by writing a check to the QC Foundation (and putting “Jimmy Heath Scholarship” in the memo), and mailed to Queens College Foundation, Keily Hall, Queens College, Queens, NY, 11367, or by calling Joann Acquista, Queens College, Director, Donor Relations, at (718) 997-5864.

Mr. Heath had etched a longstanding relationship with Flushing Town Hall, and a dozen years ago they together launched the 17-piece big band Queens Jazz Orchestra, a project of Flushing Town Hall, which since had performed for thousands of jazz lovers under his direction. “We are carrying on the American tradition of jazz by playing contemporary and historic compositions,” Mr. Heath said last year about the Queens Jazz Orchestra.

“Jimmy always felt at home at Flushing Town Hall,” said his wife Mona Heath. “The audience always gave him a warm, friendly reception and he treasured that. The best gift of my life was meeting him, and it means a great deal to me to know that his life story and his music will be shared on this evening. Thank you for keeping his memory alive.”

Born on October 25, 1926, in Philadelphia, PA, Heath was the second of the illustrious Heath Brothers to receive an NEA Jazz Master Fellowship and was the first Heath to choose music as a career path. Starting on alto saxophone, one of his first professional jobs came in 1945-46 in the Midwest territory band led by Nat Towles, out of Omaha, Nebraska. Returning to Philadelphia, he briefly led his own big band with a saxophone section that included John Coltrane and Benny Golson. Gigs followed with Howard McGhee in 1948 and with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band from 1949-50. As Gillespie once quipped, “All I can say is, if you know Jimmy Heath, you know Bop.”

During his storied career, Mr. Heath (who lived in Queens for many years) has performed on more than 100 record albums, including seven with The Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader. Jimmy has also written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards. He has also composed extended works– seven suites and two string quartets– and he premiered his first symphonic work, “Three Ears,” in 1988.

In the early 1950s, he switched to tenor sax, playing with Miles Davis among others, and in the 1960s, he began his own recordings as a leader. By combining his versatile style of performing and his outstanding writing and arranging abilities, he has set a high standard of accomplishment in the jazz field. He has made more than 100 recordings and composed more than 100 original works.

In 1993, his Verve album “Little Man, Big Band” was nominated for a Grammy, and that same year he jammed with President Bill Clinton at a White House jazz concert produced by the Thelonious Monk Institute. He received the highest award in jazz a decade later: in 2003, the National Endowment for the Arts named him a Jazz Master.

As an educator, Heath taught at Jazzmobile, Housatonic Community College, City College of New York, and Queens College, where he had taken over the jazz program in 1986 and helped to create its master’s curriculum up until his retirement a decade later. Still, he continued to conduct workshops and clinics throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.

He held honorary degrees from Sojourner-Douglass College and the Juilliard School, and has a chair endowed in his name at Queens College.

“Jimmy Heath was an iconic presence at Flushing Town Hall. Whenever we would announce that our Queens Jazz Orchestra would return, performances would sell out – because people wanted to come together to experience the music and the man,” Flushing Town Hall Executive and Artistic Director, Ellen Kodadek. “Even though we now must stay apart, this event will bring people together online; it will be an evening to celebrate his life and his legacy, but also to support future generations of jazz artists, something Jimmy Heath cared so deeply about. His spirit will shine this evening.”

Special thanks to our Step Up Campaign donors with gifts of $100 and above: Karen Argueta, Henry Assael, Beverly Bartow, Carol Bennett, Larue Brathwaite, Anne Bresnahan, Claire Bullard, Jenna Capeci, Cecilia Cheng, Jacob Eichenbaum, David Fesser, Paul Foster, Andrew Garson, Howard Graf (Graf & Lewent Architects), Heather Harrison, Alan Heilbron, Susan Hennessy, Raymond Jasen, Carmen Jimenez, Andrew Karl, Adrienne Kivelson, Bob Kodadek, Stephanie Lee, Anne Lewent, Judith Lewent, James Liao, Jeri Lim, Stephanie Long, Martha Ma, Sandra Mann, Pamela Marquez, Sandra Nash, TeHsing Niu, The Ong Family Foundation, Jessica Peña, Mary and Oscar Pollock, Ryan Powers, Richard Quatrano, Dominique Sellers, Thomas Simmons, Mike Sperendi & Jan Schneider, Jeffrey Schenider, Veronica Tsang, Tai-nin Wang, Jill Ward, Daryl Ware, Lucy Wong, and Jon Yanofsky.

Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts dba Flushing Town Hall is a not for profit organization which receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; New York State Assembly Member Ron Kim; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Mayor Bill de Blasio; Queens Borough President Melinda Katz; Council Members Adrienne Adams, Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm, Barry Grodenchik, Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Francisco Moya, and Paul A. Vallone; and the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and the Booth Ferris Foundation.

Support for our programs is also provided by Acrobuffos/Seth Bloom & Christina Gelsone, Angela An, Robin Bell-Stevens, Viviana M. Benitez, Dongjiang Bi, Cathay Bank, Douglass Chan, Amy Mak Chan, Calvin W. Chan, Sharon Chen, Ginger Chinn, Dr. Hsing-Lih Chou/New York Institute of Culture and the Arts, Con Edison, Crossings TV, Exploring the Metropolis, Kuang-Yu Fong/Chinese Theatre Works, Barbara Garii, Matthew Goldner, Howard Graf & Kathy Donovan, Guru Krupa Foundation, Lily Han, Heather Harrison, Belinda Pilin Hsu, Alice & Steve Huang, Hung Pin Hung, Investors Foundation, Raymond D. Jasen, the Jim Henson Foundation, Ellen Kodadek, the Laura B. Vogler Foundation, Nelson Lee/Flushing Bank, Janet T. Leow, Anne Lewent, James S. Liao, Emily Lin/Lin & Loveall Foundation, Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Frank Macchio, Materials for the Arts, William McClure/Queens College, Mets Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Jassy Z. Min, New York Chinese Chorus, TeHsing Niu, Northwell Health, Carlos Ortiz, Queens Art Education Center/Arthur Liu, Richard Quantaro, Queens Courier, Resorts World, Camillo Reyes, RuDance/Asian American DanceSport Corp., Dominique Sellers, Helen Shieh, Richard Siu, Curtis Smith, Mike Sperendi & Jan Schneider, Taipei Cultural Center in New York, Michael Tang, Veronica Tsang, Tai & Tony Wang/Glow Foundation, Jay Wegman, Constance Wingate, Lucy Wong, Anna Wu, Minwen Yang, Hank Yeh, Sandy Yeh, Shane Yeh, and Angela Qi Zhang.

Special thanks to Calvin W. Chan, Raymond D. Jasen, Ellen Kodadek, Anne Lewent, William McClure, and TeHsing Niu for underwriting a portion of FTH at Home: Global Arts for Global Kids. Although we cannot list every donor, Flushing Town Hall is grateful for all gifts received and wishes to thank everyone for their ongoing generosity.

About Flushing Town Hall
Flushing Town Hall (FTH), a Smithsonian affiliate, presents multi-disciplinary global arts that engage and educate the global communities of Queens and New York City, in order to foster mutual appreciation. As advocates of arts equity since 1979, we support local, immigrant, national, and international artists, developing partnerships and collaborations that enhance our efforts. As a member of New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), we serve to restore, manage, and program the historic 1862 landmark on behalf of the City of New York. FTH celebrates the history of Queens as the home of Jazz, by presenting the finest in Jazz performance. We are committed to arts education and hands-on learning, for the arts-curious, art enthusiasts, and professional artists. We serve one of the most diverse communities in the world and strive to uphold the legacy of inclusiveness that has defined our community since the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657.

For more information:
(718) 463-7700 x222
137-35 Northern Blvd. Flushing, NY 11354

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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