The title alone of Jimmy Heath's marvelous memoir speaks volumes about the man. The NEA Jazz Master is himself an acknowledged giant among his peers and his choice to name the book as he did is an indication of both his great humility and self-effacing humor (in this case regarding his height). Heath is a clever wordsmith (the book contains an appendix listing the numerous nicknames he has bestowed upon his colleagues) and an astute chronicler of the events within and surrounding his life, making his entertainingly told story as much social history as autobiography.
Beginning with the affectionate foreword by fellow Philadelphian Bill Cosby, we are made aware of the important role family played in the musical development of the saxophonist and his two equally accomplished siblings, Percy Heath and Albert "Tootie" Heath, world renowned as the Heath Bothers. Wynton Marsalis' introduction is only the first of the volume's numerous testimonials heaping praise upon a man possessed with too much humility to blow his own horn with the unmitigated passion with which his many colleagues speak of him.
Heath doesn't mince words when speaking of his drug addiction, incarceration or the unpleasant aspects of the music business and it is his unabashed honesty that is a great part of the book's refreshing charm. Yet overall this is a tome of a life full of great joy and few regrets.
I love jazz because it swings.
I was first exposed to jazz in Houston.
I met Joe LoCascio and Bob Henschen.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino.
The first jazz record I bought was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
My advice to new listeners is to relax on 2 and 4 beats.