September 1997

Pete “LaRoca” Sims

During the classic late-’50s Blue Note years, the session drummer of choice was Pete “La Roca” Sims. Heir to a drum bloodline that flows from Baby Dodds to Kenny Clarke, Sims’idiosyncratic bass/snare rhythm inversions, free-flowing cymbal colorations and old-fashioned hard swing (he calls it “chanka-dang”) not only made him adaptable to Blue Note’s finest but also presaged the free-form innovations of the next decade. Nonetheless, as the sixties waned and rock began to rule, Sims quit the bandstand.

199709_026_span9

Pete LaRoca Sims

Like General MacArthur, Sims returned to the jazz grind in 1978 with a band he dubbed the Swing Time sextet. Although the sextet enjoyed a four year residence at Sweet Basil, eight nights a month was just not enough to sustain a stable lineup. In spite of this, Sims has always managed to keep his Swing Time unit alive and well, swingin’ to this day. “We have a deep bench—there’s a lot of guys around town who know this book, it depends on whose available,” says Sims. “I always have a good band, keeping musicians, that has always been the problem.”

At last, this criminally under-recorded band has a new joint, the aptly-titled Swing Time (on Blue Note of course). A masterful compendium of fresh, hard bop strategies, Swing Time is Sims’ rhythm quest in reel time. “I must find all the different ways I can still play chanka-dang—I like to say I haven’t heard this before.” Indeed, Sims’ arrangements and intuitive interplay with his cohorts (Jimmy Owens, trumpet/ fluegelhorn; Ricky Ford, tenor; Dave Liebman, Lance Bryant, soprano; George Cables, piano; Santi Debriano, bass) revitalize the tired and the sad (“Body And Soul,” “The Candy Man”) and celebrate the groove-spirits and the deep chanka-dang (“Drum Town,” “Nihon Bashi”).

A great band, a great record—but Pete La Roca Sims is already on to the next thing. “I look forward, everything to me is actual continuity. I hope to get the band into the really strong, subtle interaction…that comes with soloing; I can cut loose on the drums, get creative and just respond to the moment. That’s the goal, I’m looking to get to the higher levels than what we do now. I know we can get there as we play more.”

Add a Comment

You need to log in to comment on this article. No account? No problem!