James Mtume was a trailblazer in the evolution of jazz and R&B, collaborating with the likes of Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins during a career that spanned decades.
South Philadelphia native James Mtume, a leading light in the world of jazz and R&B from the 1960's onward, has died at the age of 75, his family confirmed on Sunday.
Born James Forman, Mtume was the son of famed saxophonist James Heath and was raised in Philadelphia by his mother, Bertha Forman, and pianist James "Hen Gates" Forman. Mtume's formative years were spent around some of the most talented and innovative names in jazz, from Charlie Parker to Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk, many of whom would spend time at his family home.
Mtume learned to play piano and percussion at a young age, but also was a talented swimmer who earned an athletic scholarship at Pasadena City College in California. It was in college that he became associated with the US Organization, a Black empowerment group, and received the name Mtume, which means "messenger" in Swahili. He left the organization in 1969, but kept the name that later became synonymous with his R&B group.