JUST ADD HOPE: Jazz musicians impact Wilmington, world

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington is full of arts, culture and music. Several internationally renowned jazz musicians were born and raised right here in the Port City. We spoke with one of the Heath Brothers and one of their friends and fellow musicians about the impact they’ve had on the world of music and Wilmington.

“It adds spice. It spices up our lives,” jazz musician Jimmy Heath said. “Music is life, and life is music.”

Those words are certainly true for Heath. He has been performing ever since his father gave him a saxophone for Christmas when he was a little boy. Jimmy and his older brother Percy, who has died, were born and raised in Wilmington and both played in the Williston High School marching band. They moved up north shortly after and the third brother and musician, Tootie was born.

“Percy, even though he is deceased is and was one of the greatest bassists. Jimmy is, I consider, one of the top notch composer, arrangers and of course players in the last 50 years or so. Of course Tootie is one of the great drummers in the modern era,” friend and fellow musician Joe Chambers said.

Chambers is a professor of music at UNC Wilmington, a big fan of the Heath Brothers and also a friend who learned from them and played with them.

Jimmy and Tootie will be back in the Port City soon, not only to play with Chambers and put on a show but also to receive keys to the city because their career began here, and they are now considered jazz royalty. Jimmy says he’s proud of all their accomplishments, but this is extra special.

“They all are well-appreciated, and it’s always special to go where your roots are,” Heath said.

“It’s an uplifting and joyous feeling,” said Chambers, who credits the Heath Brothers with inspiring him to get into jazz.

Jimmy believes the joyous and spontaneous music is the most profound form of democracy.

“If you’re playing in a symphony orchestra, one person controls the whole set, the conductor. To me, that is more imperialist than democratic,” Heath said. “Jazz, each one of the members of the group is allowed to speak their musical expressions.”

Jimmy and Tootie plan to bring their form of democracy and of course spice to the Port city on March 10.

For more information about the Heath Brothers and how you can get tickets to the March show, visit the Cape Fear Jazz Society’s website.

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