In Memoriam: Jimmy Heath and Claudio Roditi


The jazz world suffered two huge losses recently. Trumpeter Claudio Roditi, who had been battling prostate cancer, died at his home in South Orange, New Jersey, on Jan. 17. He was 73.

Saxophonist Jimmy Heath died at his home in Loganville, Georgia, from natural causes, on Jan. 19. He was 93.

Roditi, a native of Rio de Janeiro, had a lengthy career that included collaborations with Paquito D’Rivera, McCoy Tyner and Tito Puente. He also released a series of acclaimed leader albums.

In recent years, he recorded for the Resonance label, which released his albums Bon Amigos, Simpatico and Brazilliance X4. Roditi performed at a 2018 concert in New York in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Resonance.

On a GoFundMe page set up to cover medical expenses, Roditi’s wife, Kristen Park, announced the news of the trumpeter’s death. In a heartfelt tribute, she wrote: “Over the years, many reviewers of his performances have noted Claudio’s ‘selflessness’ on stage, how he happily shared any limelight with his band mates. He was completely inspired by the communication he felt on the bandstand. He actually felt happiest in that type of musical sharing. Perhaps it stemmed from the fact that he was an only child. He was always looking for brothers and sisters! I know many of you who are musicians could feel that deep bond with him.”

Heath, a native of Philadelphia, remained active past the age of 90. Among his collaborators were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Gil Evans and Milt Jackson.

He cofounded the Heath Brothers, a celebrated band that included his brother Percy Heath (1923–2005) on bass and his brother Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums.

Select highlights from his career are included in the biography that the NEA posted when Heath was named a Jazz Master in 2003.

DownBeat covered Heath frequently in recent years, including a 90th birthday concert in 2016, an NEA Jazz Masters concert in 2016 and a Sonny Rollins tribute in 2017. DB

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June 2021
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