James Mtume Dead at 75

The legendary jazz and R&B musician and Mtume bandleader played with Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Rollins and many more

BY Kaelen BellPublished Jan 10, 2022

James Mtume, bandleader of R&B group Mtume who collaborated with several jazz legends, has died at 75. 

The news was confirmed to Pitchfork this morning (January 10) by Mtume's son. 

The son of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath, Mtume was born James Heath Jr. in Philadelphia. He was raised by his mother Bertha Forman and pianist James "Hen Gate" Forman, who introduced the young Mtume to some of the pre-eminent jazz musicians of the times. 

Mtume would go on to play percussion on his uncle Albert "Tootie" Heath's record Kawaida alongside Don Cherry and Herbie Hancock before releasing an album with his Mtume Umoja Ensemble called Land of the Blacks in 1972. He played with Miles Davis between 1971 and 1975, contributing to the legendary On the Corner sessions, and also appeared on works by Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Ramsey Lewis, Gato Barbieri and many more. 

In 1978 he released Kiss This World Goodbye, the debut album by his band Mtume, who would go on to have their biggest hit in the title track for 1983's Juicy Fruit. It was famously sampled on the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." In 2019, Mtume gave a TED Talk called "Our Common Ground in Music."

On Twitter, Questlove wrote, "thank you James Mtume for all the wisdom & love & respect you've shown me & my brothers over the years."

Listen to "Juicy Fruit" and see Questlove's post about Mtume's passing below. 


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