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Sonny Simmons: I’ll See You When You Get There

Once upon a time, guys like Chet Baker and Charlie Parker would tour as singles, playing wherever they could get a gig, backed by the local jazz hotshots. These days, as often or not, similar ad hoc gatherings result in CDs like this: alto sax legend Sonny Simmons playing a mix of his own tunes and standards, accompanied by three talented Scandinavian musicians who support the saxophonist ably but complacently.

Simmons appears in duo with, alternately, bassist Mats Eilertsen, pianist Anders Aarum and drummer Ole Thomas Kolberg. Eilertsen gets the most work, playing with Simmons on six of the 10 tracks. Of Simmons’ three partners, he’s the most consistently interesting. Strong and agile in his own right, he nevertheless serves mostly as a backstop off of which Simmons bounces ideas. Aarum and Kolberg are present on two tracks apiece, performing more than adequately but without particular distinction. Simmons is left to do the heavy lifting, and he’s up to the task, combining the most expressive aspects of free playing with his own unique take on postbop harmony and rhythm.

Simmons’ mates don’t share his raw, emotional perspective. Still, the music succeeds admirably on the strength of his musical charisma.

Originally Published