John Haley “Zoot” Sims was among jazz’s elite.
There wasn’t anybody who he didn’t record with or who didn’t want to record with him and everyone within jazz knew him as a legend. Yet for whatever reason his name strangely isn’t as synonymous as other sax greats.
His did his first session work in 1944 at the age of 19 after Benny Goodman discovered him, three years later he would join Woody Herman’s Second Herd.
At 25 he lead this particular quartet with Gerry Wiggins, Pierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke and laid down what would become one of my favorites works of his.
Recorded in Paris, France on June 16, 1950 “I Understand” seems to sum up what all his fans caught onto hearing his style of playing early on.
Now mind you I never heard the song until the late 70s when I really got into jazz. And then discovered it wasn’t released on any album I know of until the 1970 release of “Zoot Sims First Recordings!”. 13 tracks, the first 11 recorded from April 24 and June 16, 1950 and two from Aug. 25th, 1953.
Vogue owned the master tapes so as to why not released by the label Prestige who released Zoot’s first in 49′ who knows. Just glad they finally found their way onto vinyl to be heard.
Honestly was introduced to Sims by none other than Ella Fitzgerald when he did a solo on my ultimate fav. from her “Blues In The Night” apart of the Count Basie orchestra in a performance that was recorded and shown on PBS. Then I searched down to the depths on his recordings and career.
I only know that the names of Bird, Coltrane, Getz and many more seem to always be in the neon light. To me Zoot Sims also in a league of his own deserved to shine there as well because he also had a sound that would set the standard of jazz sax players for generations to come.
Written by Kim Gannon and Mabel Wayne.
Zoot Sims – tenor sax
Gerry Wiggins – piano
Pierre Michelot – bass
Kenny Clarke – drums