A street corner in Corona now bears the name “James Edward Heath Way” in honor of the late jazz master and Grammy-nominated saxophonist, bandleader and composer Jimmy Heath who died in January 2020.
His wife Mona Heath had three simple words following the street sign unveiling Friday, May 20, on 34th Avenue and 114th Street.
“It was perfect,” she said.
Joining her at the event were Heath’s daughter and grandsons and it featured performances by Antonio Hart and students from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Patience Higgins Trio, Jazzmobile and the Louis Armstrong Elementary School P.S. 143 Glee Club. The ceremony was hosted by Councilman Francisco Moya.
“James Edward Heath Way is not only memorializing the legacy of one of the jazz greats of our time, it is also a symbol that this Queens neighborhood is home to legendary jazz musicians like Jimmy Heath,” Moya said. “Being born and raised in Corona, it’s a real privilege to honor Jimmy Heath alongside his family and so many who loved and admired him.”
Heath lived in the Dorie Miller Co-ops in Corona since the 1960s and served as an advisory board member of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. He was among the founders of the Queens College Jazz Program, where he taught for more than two decades.
“We joyfully join with his family, friends and all New Yorkers in celebrating Jimmy Heath’s dynamic music, wonderful life and enduring legacy,” Queens College President Frank Wu said. “Queens College derives enormous pride from Jimmy Heath’s longstanding association with our renowned Aaron Copland School of Music. His cultural and educational contributions will continue to thrive through the establishment of the Jimmy Heath Scholarship Fund at Queens College to help support students in their quest to become a part of the next generation of great musical artists.”
Queens College hosted a fundraising concert Saturday at the LeFrak Concert Hall. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Jimmy Heath Scholarship Fund.
“National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Jimmy Heath and his important contributions to the global cultural landscape will live on in perpetuity,” said Robin Bell-Stevens, Jazzmobile director and executive producer and vice president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. “We congratulate his family for this well-deserved recognition by his adopted hometown, here on the street where he lived, with James Edward Heath Way. We are particularly grateful for Heath’s role as a co-founder of Jazzmobile and its important growth for 57 years.”
Heath formed his first band in 1946 and went on to perform for the next seven decades with jazz icons such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis and many others. In 2003, the National Endowment for the Arts named him a Jazz Master.
“Although he stood just 5 feet 3 inches tall, Heath was a towering figure at Flushing Town Hall at their annual NEA Jazz Masters concert or the Queens Jazz Orchestra, a project he conceived of and led for 12 years. Following the unveiling of the sign honoring his grandfather’s legacy,” Michael Dock said. “It is further proof that what was good, is good! James Edward Heath Way will be here in my grandpa’s honor for generations to come.”