Of the dozens of young tenor saxophonists inspired by Lester Young (see the previous post), Zoot Sims (1925-1985) may have reached prominence at the youngest age. His 19th birthday was five months ahead of him when he recorded with pianist Joe Bushkin for the Commodore label in early 1944. That was three years before he joined Herbie Steward, Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff in Woody Herman’s celebrated Four Brothers saxophone section. By the middle of 1950, Sims had recorded with an aspiring jazz singer named Harry Belafonte, toured and recorded in Sweden and visited France in Roy Eldridge’s quintet.
In the early fifties he went back to his native southern California and became an essential figure in the burgeoning Los Angeles jazz scene, then returned to New York as a member of Gerry Mulligan’s sextet. The little known film below was made in France at the Cannes Jazz Festival in 1958. Toward the end of his life, a bit of the brashness and tenderness of his early hero Ben Webster reappeared in Sims’ work, but at Cannes, his approach was still redolent of Lester. For the occasion, Zoot borrowed trumpeter Donald Byrd’s rhythm sectionWalter Davis, Jr., piano; Doug Watkins, bass; and Arthur Taylor, drums. He played “I’ll Remember April,” a piece that he favored throughout his career
Thanks to Rifftides reader and blogging colleague John Bolger for calling that Sims performance to my attention. John is the proprietor of the informative Dave Brubeck Jazz website.
The Al Cohn Memorial Collection at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania sends a reminder that the 2014 Zoot Fest will take place there on November 9. Bill Mays, Larry McKenna, Warren Vache, Lew Tabackin, Joe Cohn, Bill Crow, Bill Goodwin, Steve Gilmore and other friends of Zoot will be playing. Go here for full information about players and programming at this major educational fund raising event in memory of Zoot.