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Zoot Sims

Tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims was known for his incredible sense of swing, melodic creativity and smooth, flowing sound.

John Haley "Zoot" Sims was born in 1925 in Inglewood, California, into a family of vaudeville artists. He learned to play the clarinet and drums at an early age, and developed a passion for jazz while listening to his older brother's records, especially those of Ben Webster and Lester Young. He was 13 years old when he started playing tenor saxophone and 15 years old when he started his professional career in Bobby Sherwood's band.

He played for the first time with Benny Goodman's big band in the early 1940s before doing his military service. In 1947, he joined Woody Herman's famous "Second Herd" band. The saxophone section of the band, consisting of Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, Herbie Steward and Serge Chaloff, quickly became known as The Four Brothers.

In the early 1950s, he made brief stays in the big bands of Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Artie Shaw and Chubby Jackson. He toured and recorded briefly with Stan Kenton (1953) and then with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan (1954-1956) who gave a new impetus to his career.

Building on his success with Mulligan, Zoot Sims released numerous recordings as a leader during the second half of the decade. Beginning in 1957 he also co-lead ensembles with tenor saxophonist Al Cohn, one of the most successful collaborations of his career.

Zoot Sims continued to play until his death in 1985, touring with Norman Granz's JATP and recording albums with Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald…


Photo credit : Tom Marcello - Leo T. Sullivan

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