MVD Visual has released in the US the Gazell Records video of Zoot Sims, In a Sentimental Mood. This video was filmed in November, 1984, just months before the tenor saxophonist passed away. It was filmed at the library of Sonet Records in Lidingo, Sweden with Sims backed by Bassist Red Mitchell and guitarist Rune Gustafsson. The library setting and the drummer-less trio makes for an intimate performance. An interview by Mitchell of Sims (actually more of a conversation) is interspersed between the performances.
The performances focus on ballads starting with the Ellington classic that gives this DVD its title and ending with Autumn Leaves. The swinging Sims was a masterful ballad playing which, like his basic approach to the saxophone, reflected the influence of Lester young perhaps with a slightly vibrato that might have been picked up from Ben Webster. Mitchell provides a foundation as Gustafsson lends some chords with each taking solo breaks. Gone With the Wind opens with somewhat more of a breathier sound, perhaps reflecting more Webster here (and Webster did record this on a session with Art Tatum.
The interview portions includes recollections of his early days including a story of his time with Benny Goodman when he had a big apple on the stand and Benny had him solo and took the apple and kept gesturing for Sims to keep soloing as Goodman ate the apple and recalls it was the longest solo he ever had with Benny. After Sims had talked about his early days on 42nd Street, Mitchell himself recalls playing with a trio opening for Charlie Parker at the Onyx Club, and Bird after the set comes by and speaks in a very proper Wasp-ish accent and asks Mitchell to play the next set with him. Mitchell thinks this isn't serious until Bird announces it from the bandstand.
The light banter complements the performances with the filming centering mostly on the players faces and expressions, so we see Sims and his embouchure but little fingering, but their is plenty of character revealed in their faces as well as in the music. In a Sentimental Mood is a delightful video that fans of Sims' ballad mastery will certainly enjoy.
I received a review copy from MVD Video.