Zoot Sims, 1925-1965, is sometimes an artist that slides under the modern radar but during his career he rarely, if ever, issued a bad album.
The saxophonist began his career as a member of a number of Big Bands during the 1940′s including Benny Goodman. During the 1950s and 1960s, he led his own quintet and was prolific in the studio and in concert. Perhaps his most accomplished album occurred with the Pablo label in 1975, when he was joined by pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Grady Tate to cover a number of Ira and George Gershwin tunes. Zoot Sims And The Gershwin Brothers has now been reissued as a part of the Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series.
The Gershwin Brothers compositions have been covered thousands of times but rarely so well collectively as in this release. Part of its allure is the accompaniment of Pass and Peterson who were among the giants of jazz music in their own right.
If you want an introduction to the sound of Zoot Sims, just listen to the opening of “How Long Has This Been Going On.” He follows the Gershwin’s melody note for note with only Pass’s guitar is support, yet the song takes on the unique quality that only he could produce.
“The Man I Love” was written in 1928 and Sims gives it an up-tempo swinging interpretation that would have been comfortable in the Big Band era. “I Got Rhythm” is entended out to past seven minutes, which allows for a number of solos but the high light is the interaction between Peterson and Sims. “Embraceable You” has a tone that set the standard for just about every jazz saxophonist who would follow. Add in such standards as “Summertime,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “I’ve Got A Crush On You” and you have a nice journey through an important part of the Gershwin songbook.
There are three bonus tracks including a more laid back version of “I’ve Got A Crush On You” than that which appeared on the original album.
Sims has a unique style that could honk and purr as needed. He had the ability to take a tune and change it at will, yet retain much of its original essence.
Zoot Sims And The Gershwin Brothers is not only a fine introduction to the music of Zoot Sims but remains one of the better jazz albums of its era.