While we’re waiting out Hurricane Sandy, here’s a few servings of Zoot SIms, whose 87th birthday anniversary is today. Let’s begin with Count Basie fielding a 1979 edition of the Kansas City Five featuring Sims, Roy Eldridge, Cleveland Eaton, and Duffy Jackson. Basie and Sims won a Grammy for their 1975 Pablo recording, Basie & Zoot.
Here’s Zoot with his longtime sparring partner Al Cohn on a British television show, Cool of the Evening, playing “What the World Needs Now” and “Doodle-Oodle.” Cohn told Whitney Balliett, “Playing was both an escape and a serious vocation for him. He used to talk about the ecstasy factor– the times when your playing becomes a kind of ecstasy. Once he sat in somewhere and played ‘Sweet Lorraine’ for a half an hour. He told the piano player, who was really a bassist, the name of another tune, and the pianist said ‘Sweet Lorraine’ was the only tune he knew, so Zoot said, ‘Play it again,’ and they played it for another half hour. He didn’t look like a sophisticate, but he was a sharp, fun-loving guy…Not long before he died [in 1985], his doctor came in to take a look at him, and Zoot said, ‘You’re looking better today, Doc’.”
And here’s a half-hour of Zoot at Donte’s in Los Angeles. That’s Roger Kellaway at the piano; Chuck Berghofer on bass; and Larry Bunker on drums. We’ll hear John Haley Sims in tonight’s Jazz a la Mode on recordings with Basie, Dave McKenna, and Jimmy Rowles.