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.
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 who’s available,” says Sims. “I always have a good band; keeping musicians, that has always been the problem.”