James Mtume, the influential jazz and funk musician who founded the band Mtume and worked with a host of music legends, has died at the age of 76.
Mtume’s family confirmed that he died on Sunday (January 9), with his granddaughter Yamani writing on Instagram: “Thank you for all your kind words. The entire Mtume family is absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
“We are so grateful to have shared him with you.”
Mtume was the biological son of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath, and changed his name to Mtume (which is Swahili for “messenger”) during his time with the Cultural Nationalist Organization US in the late 1960s.
In the early 1970s he switched his focus to music, touring and recording as a percussionist with jazz legend Miles Davis, as well as the likes of Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard and Sonny Rollins.
In 1978 he released ‘Kiss This World Goodbye’, the debut album by his Mtume group. The band’s other records included 1983’s ‘Juicy Fruit’, with the title track becoming one of the band’s biggest hits (and was later sampled by The Notorious B.I.G. for his 1994 song ‘Juicy’).
Mtume also worked as a songwriter and producer, forming a productive partnership with Reggie Lucas which included Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s ‘The Closer I Get To You’, Phyllis Hyman’s ‘You Know How To Love Me’ and Stephanie Mills’ ‘Never Knew Love Like This Before’. The duo’s sound was described by Mtume as “sophistifunk”.
The late musician was also known for his score to the 1986 film Native Son, and later became a radio personality on New York City’s KISS 98.7 FM.
Tributes for Mtume have been shared on social media – you can see a selection of those below.
I am saddened to hear of the passing of my dear friend and producer #JamesMtume. He was so brilliant and an amazing music mind. The work chemistry we had was second to none. I will continue to lift you up through our music. 🙏🏾🙏🏾💜💜 https://t.co/4b0b7VgZV6
— Stephanie Mills (@PrettyMill1) January 9, 2022
Rest In Power to the great James Mtume. The South Philly native & prodigal son, Jazz ROYALTY (the son of the great Jimmy Heath) and music trailblazer & pioneer. His passing is truly a monumental loss. Let's look at some of Mtume's music and legacy through the years, as a THREAD: pic.twitter.com/CQyJZLzwMs
— COSMO BAKER (@CosmoBaker) January 9, 2022
I’m deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my true friend and brother, James Mtume. A talented and gifted artist, activist, and thinker. I was so blessed to have him in my journey, the world is a better place because of Mtume. May he Rest In Peace and Power. I miss you already pic.twitter.com/wJsNkNC3VL
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) January 9, 2022
— Najee (@NajeeOfficial) January 10, 2022
To the great ICON James Mtume (R.I.P.)
Thx for your incredible contributions to music!!!
— DJ Premier (@REALDJPREMIER) January 9, 2022