Press Release Jimmy Cheatham Memorial Jazz Jam Session


Contact: Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., Founder & Chairman
             Wisconsin Jazz and Heritage Foundation (WJHF)
             662-247-1471    662-247-3364
             web site:

5th Annual Jimmy Cheatham Memorial Jazz Jam Session

Jimmy Cheatham to be Honored in Madison, Wisconsin

(Madison, Wisconsin) - Jimmy Cheatham, former University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor in the departments of Music and Afro-American Studies, who died unexpectedly on January 12, 2007, in San Diego, California, will be honored with a 5th Annual Memorial Jazz Jam Session on Friday, October 7, 2011, beginning at 8:00pm, at the Best Western Inn on Park, 22 South Carroll Street, Madison, Wisconsin. Jimmy Cheatham was the Founder and Director of the Experimental Improvisational Black Music Ensemble (EIBME) and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1974-1978. The EIBME is still in existence today under the direction of Professor Richard Davis.

Professor Cheatham and his wife Jeannie Cheatham performed regularly in Madison at the Inn on the Park, on campus and throughout the state. While teaching on campus, Professor Cheatham brought noted jazz artists to Madison including Mary Lou Williams, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra and members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

The event is free, the public and all musicians, especially former students, are invited to attend and jam in honor of Jimmy Cheatham. The Afro-American Studies Department, in cooperation with the African-American Alumni Foundation of the University of Wisconsin, has established the Jimmy Cheatham Black Music Education Fund (JCMBMEF). Donations and support for the fund will be encouraged at the event.

For more information contact Ken Koeppler at 608-249-2875 or Dr. Ron Myers at 662-392-2016, 414-562-8505 or e-mail:, web sites -, and

5th Annual


Donations to the Jimmy Cheatham Black Music Education Fund (JCBMEF)
will be greatly appreciated!

How to make a DONATION to the
Jimmy Cheatham Black Music Education Fund (JCBMEF):

Make checks payable to the University of Wisconsin Foundation (UWF),
write "Afro-American Studies Dept. - JCBMEF" in the check memo line,
and send them to:

University of Wisconsin Foundation
US Bank Lockbox
P.O. Box 78807
Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807

Friday, October 7, 2011

Best Western Inn on the Park
22 South Carroll Street     Madison, WI


Trombonist, bandleader was fixture in San Diego

By George Varga
January 17, 2007

(San Diego, CA) - Jimmy Cheatham's trombone playing sounded very much like he did in conversation - warm, inviting and filled with the joyful spirit he radiated on and off stage.

Jimmy  Cheatham
2006 file photo / Union-Tribune

Jimmy Cheatham and his wife, Jeannie Cheatham, leaders of the Sweet Baby Blues Band, made an appearance at Greene Music in San Diego. Mr. Cheatham died Friday. He was 82. A pillar of the San Diego music scene since the late 1970s and a veteran of the bands of jazz icons such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Ornette Coleman, Mr. Cheatham died Friday after being taken by ambulance to a hospital. He was 82. The official cause of death has not been determined.

Mr. Cheatham had undergone heart surgery Dec. 28, said his wife, singer-pianist Jeannie Cheatham.

Mr. Cheatham's passion never dimmed for the music he had taught for nearly three decades at the University of California San Diego or for the Sweet Baby Blues Band, the award-winning group he led with his wife of 49 years.

"Jimmy was getting ready to play some of the gigs we've got coming up," Mrs. Cheatham said yesterday. "He came in the house from taking a walk. Twenty minutes later, I had to call 911."

The Cheathams were internationally celebrated for their ebullient brand of Kansas City blues and jazz with the Sweet Baby Blues Band, which recorded eight albums for Concord Records. The first, 1984's "Sweet Baby Blues," was awarded France's prestigious Grand Prix du Disque.

The group went on to perform at major festivals in Europe, Japan, New Zealand and beyond. Their fans included Miles Davis, with whom they shared a stage at the Chicago Jazz Festival, and the countless San Diego listeners and musicians who attended the weekly jam sessions the Cheathams hosted here in the late 1970s and for much of the '80s.

"Jimmy was an excellent musician and a great representative of the art of the jam session," famed saxophonist Charles McPherson said. "He'll certainly be missed."

But Mr. Cheatham made his biggest impact as a jazz teacher - and as a living link to a vital era of the music his students otherwise would have known about only through books and records.

"Jimmy was a consummate artist, but I marveled at his role as a teacher," said UCSD music professor Cecil Lytle, who brought Mr. Cheatham to teach at UCSD in 1978.

"He instructed students not just in how to play their instrument, but why. And he was a remarkable walking history book who provided younger musicians the atmosphere of the big bands. He knew that music as mother's milk and he conveyed its excitement, joy and tragedy. I think the people who will miss him the most are the younger musicians he touched. He was their link to the foundations of jazz."

Those sentiments were seconded by UCSD music professor Mark Dresser, who was a student of Mr. Cheatham's in the late 1970s.

"He was vital until the very end," Dresser said. "I saw him give his very first lecture at UCSD and was completely enamored by the way he spoke to the spirit of the music. He could be a stern taskmaster, but was always joyful. He also had an uncanny way of seeing who you were, in a deep way."

Mr. Cheatham was born in Birmingham, Ala., on June 18, 1924. He studied at the New York Institute of Modern Music and later became a protege of jazz drum great "Papa" Jo Jones. In addition to collaborating with jazz luminaries such as Thad Jones and Chico Hamilton, Mr. Cheatham worked extensively as a studio session musician and as a teacher who stressed life lessons as strongly as a sound artistic foundation.

"I'm always very strong about emphasizing the technique of music, but the most important thing is that we share ourselves," Mr. Cheatham told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a 2005 interview. "My ultimate focus is to be constantly open, so that I'm a channel through which the music sounds."

He retired from UCSD, after 27 years, in 2005. But even in retirement, Mr. Cheatham remained active, performing with his wife and the Sweet Baby Blues Band, whose most recent local date was at the KSDS Jazz 88 Festival in Ocean Beach in September. He was scheduled to perform with the band next month at the annual San Diego Jazz Party at the Del Mar Hilton and in May at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

"I'll just see how that works out," Mrs. Cheatham said when asked if she would continue working with the Sweet Baby Blues Band. "In fact, Jimmy and I talked about me getting somebody else (on trombone)."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Cheatham is survived by a daughter, Shirley Wilcher of Boston, and a son, Jonathan Cheatham of Wisconsin. No services are scheduled, but UCSD's Lytle said a musical send-off for Mr. Cheatham is likely in the coming weeks.

Mrs. Cheatham requested no cards or flowers, but suggested donations in Mr. Cheatham's name to the Lower California Jazz Society's scholarship fund. For more information, call the UCSD music department at (858) 534-4830.

"He would have loved that," Mrs. Cheatham said. "He lived for those students."

Staff librarian Merrie Monteagudo contributed to this report.


George Varga is the pop-music critic for the Union-Tribune: (619) 293-2253;

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