Percy Heath Steps Out

The great jazz bassist Percy Heath would have been 92 years old today. Percy, the oldest sibling, was a key member of the Modern Jazz Quartet beginning in the 1951 and has played on literally hundreds of albums as a stalwart rhythm section sideman. (That was after his stint as a pilot with the Tuskeegee Airmen during World War II).

The oldest of the Heath brothers—along with saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath—Percy was recognized before this 2004 interview by The New School University’s Jazz & Contemporary Music Program with their ”Beacons in Jazz” award on the heels of his 2002 designation as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

Here NPR’s Liane Hansen speaks with Heath about his family, his life and his 2004 solo debut record, A Love Song.

—Peter Blasevick