Percy Heath Steps Out

A Legendary Sideman Makes His Solo Debut at 80

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Hear the Full Percy Heath Interview

Percy Heath

Detail from the CD cover for 'A Love Song.' hide caption

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The Heath brothers — bassist Percy, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath — have made an indelible mark on the history of jazz.

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).

Heath was recently recognized by The New School University's Jazz & Contemporary Music Program with their ''Beacons in Jazz'' award. It goes well with his 2002 designation as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

While the lifetime achievement kudos have started to add up these days, another recent development in Heath's lengthy career may have more significance to the bassist. At the age of 80, Heath has released his first solo CD, A Love Song.

NPR's Liane Hansen spoke with Heath about his family, his life and his new album.

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