Weekend Extra: Zoot ‘n Al

Zoo and Al.jpgPaul Desmond was fond of saying that an evening listening to Zoot Sims and Al Cohn at the old Half Note in downtown Manhattan was “like going to get your back scratched.” There is a piece of video that helps explain what he meant. It’s not from the Half Note, but from a 1968 British television program called In The Cool Of The Evening. They play Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now,” then a short version of Cohn’s “Doodleoodle.” The rhythm section is Stan Tracey, piano; Dave Green, bass; Phil Seamen, drums. To watch Al, Zoot and their British friends, click here.

There is lots of Sims on video but, evidently, very little of Cohn. An exception contributed by the singer Bob Stewart is his performance of “Laura” with Cohn sitting in. An anonymous YouTube commentator felt moved to remark on a rarity, Cohn making a mistake–but instantly recovering.

I actually enjoyed that clam at 2:04 where he plays the I-II-major III then quickly goes back and plays the I-II-minor III that fit in the chord.

To see and hear “Laura,” click here.

The late pianist Lou Levy liked to tell of the time Stan Getz came off a solo with which he was particularly pleased, turned to Levy and said, “Who’s your favorite tenor player now?”

“Al Cohn,” Levy said. “Isn’t he yours?”

And he was. Levy told me that when he visited Getz in his friend’s final days, he usually found him listening to Cohn’s recordings.

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  1. says

    That reminds me of another egocentric tenor player. Jimmy Rowles told me that when Lester Young died in 1959, Tex Beneke said: “Well, it’s just me and Zoot now.”