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Friday, August 4, 2023

Zoot - Zoot Sims Quartet


The Man I Love

Zoot Sims Quartet
Album Production: Dave Usher
Date Recored: 01/12/1956
Studio: Capitol N.Y.C.
Argo LP 608

Zoot Sims - Tenor & Alto
Johnny Williams - Piano
Gus Johnson - Drums
Knobby Totah - Bass

From the back cover: Zoot Sims has been an active member of the Jazz fraternity ever since he joined Kenny Baker's orchestra in 1941 at the age of 16. Since that time he has worked with Bobby Sherwood, Bob Aston, Sonny Dunham, Benny Goodman, and an innumerable number of small groups, including that of Gerry Mulligan, which he left in mid '56 to form his own unit. Yet it has been only of late that his playing has begun to earn the respect among musicians and fans alike that it deserves.

In addition to all his previous credits, Zoot also is the owner of a badge of distinction which can be worn in the lapels of just three other men. Along with Stan Getz, Herbie Steward, and Serge Chaloff, he was one of the original members of the "Four Brothers" saxophone section of the Woody Herman orchestra in 1947 and '48.

No other section of any jazz band was ever as well-known as the Brothers, due not only to the unique nickname but also because of the artistry of all its members.

In turn, the musicians were all propelled to varying degrees of fame through the association.

Stan Getz made it almost overnight. His solo on Woody's Early Autumn was a huge hit, and he became the best-known tenor saxist of the past decade, and a winner of seven consecutive Down Beat polls.

Herbie Steward, a musicain's musician highly respected by his fellow players, retired to the obscurity of Hollywood studios and dance bands early in the '50s. His lovely tone and supple conception were the envy of many a contemporary.

Baritone saxist Serge Chaloff, an amazingly flexible musician, had a roaring career underway until some personal difficulties virtually wrecked it.

And so just two of the Brothers remain prominent. Their progress might be likened to that of the hare and the tortoise. Getz flew to fame. Sims has plodded steadily.

Getz is the consummate artist, the brilliant technician with the floating sound. There are times when you will swear there is really nothing left to play after he has finished a solo. He explores every devious, twisting channel.

Zoot, as Bob Brookmeyer says, "plays earthy." He is direct, simple, logical and above all, emotional.

I have long held the theory (through certainly is not one evoked by me) that a musician who has found his sea legs and charts his own personal course is just what he plays.

To explain. Roy Eldrigde is the same flaming personality as his playing. So is Dizzy Gillespie. The elfin delight in color and sound that puts from Erroll Garner's piano is Errol Garner, Jimmy Giuffre is a calm, dryly humorous student of music.

Zoot Sims is the country boy moved to the city, one who has let enough sophistication stick to him so that he can get along with the urbanites. Though he has firm control of his horn, he shrugs off any unnecessary technical bric-a-brac to dig deeply into the blues-base roots of jazz. His playing is piercingly honest and revealing, and though he, too, is of the many who have been influenced by Lester Young, his sound is thicker and fuller, and the beat he evokes is more akin to a heart-beat than a pulse.

Zoot is a swinger planted ankle-deep in loam.

All those qualities are evident in this collection, the first to allow him so much blowing room. He carries it off superbly, from the first booming notes of 920 Special, the old swing era favorite, through Dizzy Gillespie's Nation Woody'n You.

In between are a moving eloquent Man I Love, a skimming excursion over 55th And State, based on a familiar and often-employed chord structure, and Blue Room, played at finger-snapping tempo.

And there's Gus's Blues, written by Gus Johnson, the drummer on the date. That Old Feeling follows, then Sims picks up the alto to play Oscar Pettiford's Bohemia After Dark. It seems fragile in his hands, as if at any moment the instrument might break in two as he pours tenor saxophone conception into it.

Quite a remarkable album, this, one which turns a bright bulb on Zoot Sims, tenor saxophonist.

He does not blink.

Jack Tracy - Editor, Down Beat Magazine

From Billboard - April 29, 1957: Special Merit Jazz Album - In spite of the plethora of recently released Sims packages, this is an indispensable set. With ideal assistance from J. Williams, G. Johnson and K. Totah, Zoot is at his earthy, emotional best. There are many tenor men who play the Lester Young line, but few have the ingenuity, talent and definable dignity of Sims. To show it is to sell it.

920 Special
The Man I Love
55th And State
Blue Room
Gus' Blues
That Old Feeling 
Bohemia After Dark
Woudy'n You

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