Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records, Part 3o: Zoot Sims

Zoot Sims continued his European swing with a recording session in Paris, this one kicked ahead by the drumming of Kenny Clarke, house drummer at Minton's during the original bebop days, and a longtime Paris expat, although in 1950 he was not yet a full-time resident -- he would be back in New York in 1952 to become the original drummer for the Modern Jazz Quartet. And here's something I didn't know -- he and Annie Ross had a child, Kenny Clarke, Jr., himself now a drummer.

Anyway, Zoot Sims in Paris -- a notable session, but one that's only tangentially related to Prestige. Certainly Bob Weinstock had close relationship between Vogue Records in Paris and Metronome Records in Stockholm (I've leapfrogged over a couple of all-Swedish sessions to get to Zoot), but he
seems for some unaccountable reason to have given this session short shrift. Nine songs were cut that day -- "Night and Day," "The Big Shot," "Slinging Hash," "I Understand," "Tenorly," "Don't Worry 'Bout Me," "Crystal's," "Zoot and Zoot," and "Toots Suite." Of those, none were released on 78, 45 single, 45 EP, or 10-inch LP. Only "Night and Day"(two takes), "Slingin' Hash" (two takes), "I Understand," "Tenorly" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" made it to a Prestige 7000-series reissue.

But...on a couple of occasions, Edgar Villchur, the genius behind the contemporary loudspeaker, reminded me of why he did what he did, and why he didn't spend a lot of time talking about it: "I'm not a technology lover...I'm a music lover." And in this blog, I'm using a historically accurate timeline (as far as I can) as a structure for listening to a lot of good music, which is the main goal, after all. And making up the rules as I go along. I didn't include the Charlie Parker 1949 session because that was only put out on the Prestige 24000 series, long after Prestige had been sold to Fantasy and had become purely a reissue label. The Zoot Sims Paris sessions are 7000-series, which is still the real Prestige.

It's not clear what Gerald Wiggins (Gerry Wiggins on this session) was doing in Paris in 1950. A graduate of New York's Music and Art High School with classical training, he was Los Angeles-based -- he is probably the only serious jazz musician to have worked with both Stepin Fetchit and Marilyn Monroe. He wasn't touring Europe with Sims -- this is their only recording together. Best guess -- he was there with Lena Horne. He was her accompanist in 1950-51, and she made a number of European tours.

Zoot Sims was probably the second most famous of the Four Brothers. He didn't achieve the superstardom of Stan Getz, and there's no signature song that's associated with him, but he had an outstanding career over four decades, recording swing, bebop, cool jazz, backing up singers (and Jack Kerouac!), playing with virtually everybody, recording prolifically as leader and co-leader with Al Cohn, and if he ever made a bad record, I haven't heard it.

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