He was 82.
Cheatham, who underwent a heart-related procedure in December, was preparing to tour with his band, including a performance scheduled in May at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, the Los Angeles Times said.
In a decades-long career, Cheatham played bass trombone with the giants of jazz, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Ornette Coleman. Most recently, he played with his wife, Jeannie, in their Sweet Baby Blues Band, formed in the mid-1980s.
Cheatham took his knowledge and love of jazz into the classroom in 1971, when he was invited to teach jazz at Bennington College in Vermont. In 1978, he was asked to head the jazz program at UC San Diego.
Cheatham retired from UC, San Diego, in 2005.
Besides his wife, Cheatham, who died Jan. 12, is survived by a daughter and a son.