Jazz and funk musician James Mtume has died, aged 76

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.

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