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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ZOOT SIMS

Four Classic Albums:
Leader and Sideman

Avid AMSC 1061

 

 

CD1
Stretching Out
1. Stretching Out
2. Now Will You Be Good
3. Pennies From Heaven
4. King Porter
5. Ain't Misbehavin'
6. Bee Kay
 
Zoot Sims - Tenor sax
Bob Brookmeyer - Valve trombone
Al Cohn - Tenor sax, baritone sax
Harry Edison - Trumpet
Charlie Persip - Drums
Hank Jones - Piano
Eddie Jones - Bass
Freddie Green - Guitar
 
Starring Zoot Sims
7. Captain Jetter
8. Nuzzolese Blues
9. Everything I Love
10. Evening In Paris
11. On The Alamo
12. My Old Flame
13. Little Jon "Special"
 
Zoot Sims - Tenor sax
Jon Eardley - Trumpet
Henri Renaud - Piano
Benoit Quersin - Bass
Charles Saudrais - Drums
 
Down Home
14. Bill Bailey
15. Goodnight, Sweetheart
 
Zoot Sims - Tenor sax
Dave McKenna - Piano
George Tucker - Bass
Dannie Richmond - Drums


CD2
Down Home
1. Jive At Five
2. Doggin'Around
3. Avalon
4. I Cried For You
5. There'll Be Some Changes Made
6. I've Heard That Blues Before
 
Zoot Sims - Tenor sax
Dave McKenna - Piano
George Tucker - Bass
Dannie Richmond - Drums
 
The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess
7. Summertime
8. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing
9. My Man's Gone Now
10. It Takes A Long Pull To Get There
11. I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'
12. Bess, You Is My Woman
13. It Ain't Necessarily So
14. Medley - Minor themes: Prayer, Strawberries, Honey Man and Crab Man
15. I Loves You Porgy
16. Clara, Clara
17. There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York
18. Oh Bess, Oh Where's My Bess
19. Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way
 
Art Farmer, Harry Edison, Bernie Glow, Markie Markowitz, Charlie Shavers - Trumpets
Bob Brookmeyer, Frank Rehak, Jimmy Cleveland, Earl Swope - Trombones
Rod Levitt - Bass trombone
Sol Schlinger - Baritone sax
Zoot Sims, Al Cohn - Tenor saxes
Phil Woods, Gene Quill - Alto saxes
Bill Evans - Piano
Herbie Powell - Guitar
George Duvivier - Bass
Charlie Persip - Drums

Zoot Sims was a swinging expressive tenor saxophonist who played with an even timbre, had a prolific imagination, and like many of his cohorts was influenced by Lester Young yet did not replicate him. These sides, which were recorded between 1956 and 1960 and have now been reissued by Avid Jazz, are shining examples of his talent.

Stretching Out is an octet session with Zoot Sims and Bob Brookmeyer as co-leaders. This band, with an exceptional front line, runs through six charts, four of which were arranged by Brookmeyer, with Al Cohn providing Pennies From Heaven and Bill Potts offering Bee Kay. There will be more to say about Potts later on in this review. The title tune Stretching Out is a blues done in a laid-back fashion with Harry Edison on muted trumpet stating the opening theme over the band, and then the ever succinct Hank Jones on piano giving a great sixteen bars of blues piano. Sims then picks up the pace, followed by a lower register solo from Brookmeyer. There is not an uneven solo in the whole cut. The rest of the session follows along in the same manner with every tune driven by polished arrangements, wherein each member of the band can show off their solo skills to great effect. Pennies From Heaven not only is an Al Cohn arrangement, but a feature for his turn on baritone sax and a great ride by Edison on open trumpet. Sims chips in with a couple of strong tenor choruses, with Hank Jones delivering some tasty runs before the band takes the tune out. The Bill Potts tune and arrangement on Bee Kay is nothing more than a head chart where everyone gets a chance to push their groove in a relaxed easy-going style, while offering interesting solo breaks.

Starring Zoot Sims was recorded in Paris in 1956 and featured, in addition to Sims, trumpeter Jon Eardley who was Chet Baker's replacement in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and his Sextet, which also included both Sims and Bob Brookmeyer. The supporting rhythm section was all French musicians headed by pianist Henri Renaud. Not unexpectedly, the star of this session is Sims, with his inventive tenor sax in the forefront of all the tunes. While Eardley plays with feel and technique, he does have a rather thin tone. The set starts out with a Renaud original Captain Jetter (provenance unknown) but a swinger nonetheless, with Sims' tenor taking up most of the solo space. Nuzzolese Blues by the three principles Sims, Eardley and Renaud has a straight-ahead blues feel, with Eardley seeming to find his footing with a longish solo in the laid-back tempo. Renaud who played in New York with the likes of Clifford Brown and Max Roach is equally at home here. Evening In Paris is a lovely Quincy Jones ballad on which Sims takes inspiration for his thoughtful reading. On The Alamo swings along in true Texas fashion with Eardley taking the lead, but Sims carries his weight with ease. All in all, the music produced is of a consistently lofty category.

Down Home is a quartet session with pianist Dave McKenna, who was still a somewhat under-appreciated and un-heralded player at the time of the recording. This is a constantly swinging album comprised of standards that provide the band with a structure to work their magic. Jive At Five and Doggin' Around are a couple of Basie-associated charts with the former taken at a slightly faster tempo than the original Basie recording, while the latter really rocks out. The set-up for all the tunes generally follows the same format with Zoot stating the theme, then taking off in an extended solo, after which McKenna jumps in with his easily recognizable style of a strong right hand running the keyboard, with the left hand providing a repeating bass line. With regard to Sims' playing on these tracks, he seems to have a slightly darker tone than in some of his other studio sessions as evidenced by the rendition of his own composition I've Heard That Blues Before.

Like most things in life, timing can be a contributing factor on any outcome. And so it was for The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess. Released in 1959, one year after the acclaimed Miles Davis/Gil Evans album of Porgy & Bess, this Bill Potts version did not get the attention or recognition that it rightly deserved. While Zoot Sims was a part of this all-star aggregation, his solo efforts were limited, as Potts' writing was meant to use as many members of this prestigious grouping as possible. George Kanzler in his interview with drummer Charlie Persip on February 12, 2009 for All About Jazz, quotes Persip as follows on this album: "It was a heckuva album. It was scheduled for three dates at Webster Hall in Manhattan each from 9am to noon [as] United Artists didn't want to go over budget so it was to be four tunes per date". The album is excellent from start to finish and it expresses Potts' creative ideas about the original George Gershwin score and how it should be interpreted in a jazz vein. Andr‚ Previn wrote about this session as follows: "The band plays with an 'esprit' and a precision hardly ever encountered in a 'one-time together' studio ensemble" .

There are no weak tracks and thus it is difficult to pick out and discuss one track over another. However, there are several that listeners may wish to pay particular attention. The opening track Summertime is a joyous swinger with "Sweets" Edison on muted trumpet and Zoot Sims on tenor doing the honours. The unheralded trumpeter Markie Markowitz gives an emotive rendition of My Man's Gone Now. Phil Woods is at his sympathetic best on Bess, You Is My Woman. Finally pianist Bill Evans is achingly beautiful in his brief passages on I Loves You Porgy.

If a swinging Zoot Sims is your bag, plus getting one of the best jazz albums of Porgy & Bess, this Avid release is for you.

Pierre Giroux



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