Jim Heineman has been a mainstay of the Toronto jazz scene for decades. His sound and compositions reflect his impressive list of mentors, which include jazz legends, pianist Mary Lou Williams, bassist Ali Mohammed and saxophonists Rolland Kirk, George Coleman, James Moody and others. Jim often introduces fellow musicians Stacie McGreger and Mark Hundebad in his “dream band” as “Canada’s hidden treasures”, but this is no less true of Jim himself; a “musician’s musician who is well known amongst Toronto’s best but little known to the general Canadian public. With 40 years of professional experience, he brings live performance to a world-class level; his compositions, with their rich melodies and emphasis on “groove” have the same lasting power of the great standards of jazz.
Jim Heineman was born and bred in New York City and grew up in the heart of the entertainment industry. His father was William J Heineman a self made man who produced the first major civil rights movie “The Jackie Robinson Story” and helped save United Artist Pictures from “going bust”; becoming the vice president of marketing by the time Jim was born. Jim was the last of eight children and because his mother was ill and therefore hospitalized for two years following his birth; an African American nanny was hired. He spent hours on her knee while she played and sang gospel songs at the piano. For his fourteenth birthday he asked his father to take him to the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre to see the “Big Rock’n Roll Show” but instead was taken to the “ Big Jazz Show”. The lineup was Miles Davis and the Count Basie Big Band. This first experience of live jazz changed his life forever. With his new fake I.D in hand, he spent his weekends at the New York City jazz “hot spots” like the Village Vanguard, Slugs, Birdland, Village Gate and others, witnessing performances “at the feet of” revolutionary jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Nina Simone, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley and Charles Mingus to name only a few. Jim arrived in Toronto, Canada in 1963 and while getting a Liberal Arts degree at the University of Toronto, was the first person to bring live music concerts to Convocation Hall, sponsoring the greats Charles Lloyd, Donald Bird, Rolland Kirk, Sonny Rollins and a young Keith Jarrett, who was a side man for Charles Lloyd at the time, to perform between 1963 and 1966. He won two summer scholarships to study Arabic at Harvard and a summer at Berklee College of Music. He studied three years of music composition and theory with world-renowned musicologist Gordon Delmont , two years of classical flute with Virginia Markson, as well as one year of saxophone with the legendary Jackie McLean.
Making Toronto Jazz History
Jim managed his own jazz club, The Strawberry Patch, in Yorkville during its cultural explosion in the sixties;employing a future mayor of Toronto as a waitress. He has played at countless spots in the greater Toronto area, including the Cotton Club, the El Mocambo, George’s Spaghetti House, Basin Street, Massey Hall, the Blue Note and the Top of the Senator to name only a few. Inspired by the memory of watching Thelonius Monk’s manager move a grand piano into a “dive”, turning it into the New York City jazz hot spot, the “Five Spot”; Jim and fellow band mate John T.Davis moved John T.’s Hammond B3 organ into the Rex Hotel for an audition. This resulted in a more than 80-week run as the first house band, putting the Rex Hotel on the map as Toronto’s own jazz hot spot. Toronto Star Entertainment Columnist Val Cleary wrote of the Jim Heineman/JohnT.Davis Quartet at the time, “This Band will knock your socks off”( April 1988)
Film and Performances
Jim and John T. were the subject of a documentary film entitled “Brothers in Music”. This film was shown at international jazz festivals, and featured on CBC’s Adrienne Clarkson Presents in 1996. He was also the featured actor and instrumentalist in a film entitled “Stealing Images” which won Best Canadian short film in 1988. His compositions. were featured in a series of six concerts on CHCH TV entitled “Just Jazz" . Jim and his composition “Fly” were featured along with Glenn McDonald and John T. Davis on Jeanette Brantley’s Gospel Hallelujah, a CBC “Super Special”. Jeanette Brantley went on to tour with the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Big Orchestra introducing his compositions. This resulted in them recording two of Jim's instrumental compositions, arranged by Thad Jones. He has also performed at many Jazz festivals, including the Jacksonville Florida International Jazz Festival with the Chris Martin Band, following the Modern Jazz Quartet (Milt Jackson) and opening for Chick Corea in front of more than 50 000 jazz fans. He was a featured act in the first Luminato Festival’s “Summer Of Love” in Yorkville. He performed at the Toronto Dominion International Jazz Festival several years in a row, and recently at the Pirate Jazz Festival in the Cayman Islands with the Kingsley Etteinne Quartet, as well many other festivals. Jim had the opportunity to play with many great players including Roland Kirk and Sonny Stitt and outstanding Canadian legends guitarist Lenny Breau and drummer Claude Ranger. He performed with the late great jazz singer Diane Brooks in the William Blackburn Band at her last videoed performance. He also played five nights of flute with Mary Lou Williams at the Fire hall in Toronto.
Wide Range of Styles
Jim has performed a wide range of styles. Much of his own music has a strong Latin influence. He has performed with top Latin Jazz bands including Rick Lazar & the Montuno Police,Memo Acevedo & Banda Brava as well as some of Cuba’s well known jazz artist Helario Duran .In 1997 he recorded with the late Tarig Abubakar & The Afro Nubians in the East and West African styles and toured across Canada. In 1998 he performed on Mark Hundevad’s album Spiritual Alignment with the late Rafe Malik of the Cecil Taylor Band in the avant garde style. He continues to play with Mark Hundevad's avant/garde/world beat jazz band Controlled Demolition. He has also performed with many blues artists including world-renowned Willie Dixon, Lonnie Johnson, Koko Taylor, Jackie & Betty Richardson, and Big Miller, and was interviewed in a documentary of Big’s life. He also played with R &B performers Steve Ambrose of the Lincolns, DJ Jones formerly of the James Brown Revue, Salome Bey, Shakura S’aida, Liberty Silver, Divine Brown as well as recorded with Dutch Robinson, former lead singer of The Ohio Players. In 1999 he won a Juno for his performance on Madagascar Slim’s debut album. In 2004 he was featured at the Distillery Jazz Festival with a six-piece ensemble. They performed his and Mark Hundevad’s polyphonic arrangement of Bach Cello Suite No.2 moving through a variety of musical rhythms, receiving a standing ovation for their performance.
As prolific a performer as Jim is, his own music is under recorded, mainly because he prefers live recordings. In order to be authentic he believes that jazz must be performed live. He is quoted as saying in a 2002 interview. “The music will almost play itself if you let it and that’s what so beautiful about it. That’s how the mystical happens“. Toshiba electronics released a promotional CD recording in 1993, featuring Jim’s compositions that he arranged for a twelve-piece band. John T.Davis produced three live recordings of the Jim Heineman/John T.Davis Quartet during their engagement at the Rex. And Jim put out a live Christmas album, featuring award winning piano player Robi Botos in 2001. Mark Hundevad and Lucya Almeida produced a live recording featuring his compositions called Rh Positive with his " dream band" in 2011 which was nominated for an International Independent Music Award for best Jazz song for the title track. The judges that year included the great McCoy Tyner and Joshua Redman Jr. It was followed up by the CD live recording Nature Is Our Mother in 2014 also, produced by Mark Hundevad, Glenn Fraser and Lucya Almeida
Mentoring the Younger Generations
With his direct connections to some of the most revolutionary artists in jazz, Jim Heineman is not only important as a player and composer, but also as a mentor and educator, continuing to pass on the passion for musical excellence. Almost 30 years ago he along with Tommy Oki, Dave Blackmore, Rick Cameron, and John T.Davis had a dream of bringing opportunities for the arts to underprivileged children in Toronto; the result of which was the Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre. This centre still flourishes today. Jim and two other members of his “dream “ band continue to teach there on a weekly basis. He was a featured performer with his students at the “uforchange” youth program fundraiser at the Glen Gould Studio in June 2011. Jim's title track, Rh Postive to his latest release as nominated for an international Independent Music Award and won the fan's choice in this best jazz song 2011 category.
Header top photo from front page of the Toronto Star entertainment section featuring Jim at the Toronto Jazz Festival 2008