Zoot!: The ZOOT SIMS Quintet
Nick Travis (tp) Jack “Zoot” Sims (as – on Swim, Jim and Osmosis only, ts) George Handy (p, arr) Wilbur Ware (b) Osie Johnson (drs). New York; December 13 & 18, 1956
1. Why Cry? (5:48) (Florence Handy)
2. Echoes of You (7:08) (F. Handy)
3. Swim, Jim (7:02) (F. Handy)
1. Here Now (4:51) (F. Handy)
2. Fools Rush In (4:27) (Mercer – Bloom)
3. Osmosis (4:40) (Osie Johnson)
4. Taking a Chance on Love (5:59) (Latouche – Duke)
The "stars" of the jazz world gain their positions in a variety of ways. There is sometimes the sudden flash who reaches a top spot almost overnight (and sometimes, though not always, holds on to it for longer than that). Or there is, at the other extreme, the musician who works to master his instrument, reaches jazz maturity by way of thorough-going experience without losing and of that all-important freshness and enthusiasm, and then is not so much 'discovered' as 'recognized.' That is, there is no sudden blinding glare; there is, instead, a wide-spread and rather gradual recognition that this not only is an important jazz voice but has been one for quite some time.
The latter description happens to fit very neatly the star of these proceedings: JACK "ZOOT" SIMS. It is only within the past year or so that Zoot's considerable capabilities have come to be generally recognized. In most of the barrage of jazz-fan polls conducted in 1956, including those of the two top magazines, Down Beat and Metronome, he ranked behind only two such long-standing favorites on tenor as Stan Getz and Lester Young. And the critic have begun to bring out their best adjectives and phrases for his playing.
But these recent developments should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention. Still a comparatively very young man (he was born in Inglewood, California, in October of 1925), Zoot has been thoroughly steeped in music from the start. An older brother, Ray Sims, is well known trombonist; young Jack took up clarinet in grade school, and has been a professional musician for just about half his years to date. Before he was out of his 'teens he had with the big bands of Benny Goodman, Sonny Dunham and Bobby Sherwood. After two years in the Army (1944-46), he spent the late '40s with Woody Herman's Herd, where he was first notable as member of the "Four Brothers" sax section (Historical Note: the other brothers were Getz, Serge Chaloff, Herbie Steward). In the '50s he has toured Europe with Benny Goodman, worked with Stan Kenton and with the Gerry Mulligan Sextet, and led several groups of his own.
For connoisseurs of adjectives, those that seem most aptly to suggest the qualities of the Sims approach might include: swinging, warm, funky. (The last-named can be a fairly ambiguous term; take it to indicate here a feeling of depth and of virility-without-harshness, in contrast to the somewhat anemic "cool" reed sound.) Nat Hentoff has probably said it best by describing Zoot's playing as "mellow, yet muscular."
If there has been any drawback to Zoot's previous recorded work, it would be one that ironically stems from one of his strong points. Sims is among the most consistently fluent and imaginative improvisors around; as a result, there's a tendency to invite him to step into the recording studio and "just blow." He does that very well, of course, but what happens on this album would seem an even better idea. Zoot has recently come into association with George Handy, one of the truly superior modern arrangers, and they have found that they operate extremely well together. So here Zoot has the advantage of working with four well-constructed Handy scorings (of originals by George's wife, singer Flo Handy), specifically designed for Sims. There's also on Osie Johnson tune and, by way of contrast, two standards - s swinging Taking a Chance on Love and a tender ballad-tempo treatment of Fools Rush In - that are strictly 'head' arrangements worked up in the studio. Two of the numbers also offer examples of Zoot's recent, quickly-achieved mastery of the also sax, rounding out an LP that clearly demonstrates why he has become a "star" of the longer-lasting variety.
The supporting cast here is exceptionally strong. GEORGE HANDY, who first came into prominence in the mid-'40s through his strikingly original arrangements for the Boyd Raeburn orchestra, has only rarely written for small groups. But he shows a remarkable ability to score with fullness and richness for instrumentation as basic as this two-horn, three-rhythm set up. Handy also makes this the occasion of one of his too-infrequent appearances on piano. NICK TRAVIS has played with a wide range of bands, including Goodman, Herman and Sauter-Finegan. A universally respected musician, he rarely gets sufficient room to display his talents as a big-toned, inventive, modern trumpet soloist - and he makes much of that opportunity here. WILBUR WARE is quickly becoming known to musicians as the coming bassist: a sure, strong rhythm man and an unusually deft soloist. OSIE JOHNSON is perhaps the most frequently-recorded drummer on hand today, which is simply because few drummers of any period have equalled his ability to set and hold a firm tempo and to spark large bands or small.
Sims is also featured on another twelve-inch Riverside LP:
Trigger Happy: TRIGGER ALPERT’S Absolutely All-Star Seven – with Zoot Sims, Tony Scott, al Cohn, Urbie Green, Joe Wilder, Ed Shaughnessy; playing arrangements by Marty Paich, Dick Hyman, Tony Scott (RLP12-225)
Other outstanding 12-inch Riverside albums of HIGH FIDELITY modern music include –
New Music of ALEC WILDER; composed for MUNDELL LOWE and his Orchestra (RLP12-219)
Guitar Moods by MUNDELL LOWE (RLP12-208)
MUNDELL LOWE Quartet (RLP12-204)
THELONIOUS MONK plays Duke Ellington; with Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Clarke (RLP12-201)
The Unique THELONIOUS MONK; with Oscar Perriford, Art Blakey (RLP12-209)
THELONIOUS MONK: Brilliant Corners; with Sonny Rollins, Ernie Henry, Clark Terry (RLP12-226)
Counterpoint for Six Valves: DON ELLIOTT and RUSTY DEDRICK play Dick Hyman arrangements (RLP12-218)
BILL EVANS: New Piano Jazz Conceptions (RLP12-223)
KENNY DREW Trio; with Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLP12-224)
BOB CORWIN Quartet featuring the trumpet of DON ELLIOTT (RLP12-220)
The Voice of MARTY BELL/ The Quartet of DON ELLIOTT (RLP12-206)
Presenting ERNIE HENRY; with Kenny Dorham, Kenny Drew (RLP12-222
Jazz by Gee!; MATTHEW GEE All-Stars, with Kenny Droham, Frank Foster (RLP12-221)
Get Happy with the RANDY WESTON Trio (RLP12-203)
RANDY WESTON Trio plus CECIL PAYNE (RLP12-214)
RANDYWESTON: Trio and Solo; with Art Blakey (RLP12-227)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording - Riverside-Reeves Full Fidelity Spectronic Engineering (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced, and notes by, Orrin Keepnews.
Cover photograph: Carol Reiff Galletly. Typographic design: Paul Bacon.
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios).
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.