Queens Jazz Orchestra to honor late jazz icon Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath at Flushing Town Hall

jazz orchestra
Flushing Town Hall is set to honor the late jazz legend Albert “Tootie” Heath
Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall

The Queens Jazz Orchestra will host a tribute concert for the late NEA Jazz Master Albert “Tootie” Heath on Friday, June 28, at Flushing Town Hall.

The event, set to begin at 8 p.m., celebrates Heath, who passed away in April at the age of 89. Heath was the last living member of the Heath Brothers, a trio renowned for their significant contributions to American jazz.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tootie Heath was the youngest of three siblings. His brothers, Percy Heath, a bassist inducted as an NEA Jazz Master in 2002, and saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who received the honor in 2003, were pivotal in his early musical development. Tootie Heath earned his Jazz Master title in 2021, an award considered the highest honor in the jazz community.

Throughout his career, Heath collaborated with some of the most distinguished names in jazz, including performances with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. He was also the drummer on Nina Simone’s debut album, “Little Girl Blue,” and played with other jazz luminaries such as J.J. Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Benny Goldson and Art Farmer. His drumming can be heard on over 100 recordings.

The Queens Jazz Orchestra, a project exclusively housed at Flushing Town Hall, was founded in 2008 by Jimmy Heath and jazz producer Clyde Bullard. The 17-piece ensemble is committed to preserving the heritage of jazz in Queens and ushering forward the next generation of talented jazz musicians. Following Jimmy Heath’s tenure as the music director until his death in 2020, the orchestra has been under the leadership of Antonio Hart, a Grammy-nominated saxophonist and director of jazz studies at the Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music.

Hart, who was personally selected for the role by Jimmy, expressed his admiration for the Heath brothers. “We have lost an important icon in Tootie Heath,” Hart said. “But like all the Masters before him, his life’s work will endure in the music he left behind.”

Bullard explained the impact Tootie had on the jazz community and throughout the borough. “Tootie was a great force in jazz and among the many jazz legends to have made a home for themselves in our great borough,” Bullard stated. “We loved having him perform at Flushing Town Hall as part of our annual NEA Jazz Masters concert series.”

“We hope audience members attending the June 28 concert will join us for the pre-concert reception to share their favorite memories of Tootie and his music,” said Bullard.

The tribute concert is part of Queens Rising, a month-long celebration of the borough’s cultural and creative diversity. Tickets for the concert are $48, with discounts available for members, seniors and students with ID. A free, pre-concert reception open to ticket-holders will begin at 7 p.m., providing a space for attendees to share their memories of Tootie Heath and his impact on jazz music.