Monday, August 01, 2011

Solid Swinging Zoot Suite

One of the albums that gives this writer much pleasure is Zoot Sims’ Pablo release, If I’m Lucky, which had a terrific band of Jimmy Rowles on piano, George Mraz on bass and Mousey Alexander on drums. A wonderful, swinging album, Sims sounds so warm on his tenor and the band complements him like the band has been together all of their lives.

The same band is heard on what is believed to be a 1973 Caribbean recording that HighNote has just released, Zoot Suite. Its not a high fidelity recording and Rowles piano and the rhythm section especially comes off a bit tinny at times. Despite any audio limitations, Sims plays energetically on the opening Jitterbug Waltz with echoes of Lester Young in his playing before Rowles handles a solo with repeated ascending lines. The sound quality perhaps lends a somewhat harsh tone to Sims’ reading of Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me, while Lester Young’s influence is again evident on Young’s Tickle Toe, with a rollicking solo from Rowles before Sims trades fours with Alexander. Other ballads like I Want It Bad and That Ain’t Good and My Old Flame are wonderfully handled, while the band gets rocking on Honeysuckle Rose and Rockin’ in Rhythm (with Sims playing soprano on the latter number).

Plenty of fervor in these performances even if this recording lacks some of the wistful romanticism that made If I’m Lucky so special. If one can get past the tinny recoding, there is some fine music here.

This review originally appeared in the October 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 298), from whom I received my review copy.

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