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Sonny Simmons: Jewels

Sonny Simmons, one of the last surviving free-jazz insurrectionaries from the ’60s, is an acquired taste, even for free thinkers within the audience for improvised music. Jewels, a recording made in a private home in 1991 and never released until now, is both less and more accessible than most of Simmons’ work. Less, because it belongs to the tiny, highly specialized genre of solo alto saxophone recordings. More, because Simmons’ plays here with an orderliness of which few would have believed him willing or capable.

Not that Jewels would make nice background music for your mother’s bridge club. Through five originals filling over one hour of music, Simmons’ creative process is naked and raw and austere. He starts with simple motives and derives their vast implications with great patience, expanding semiconcentric circles ever outward from the nodes where he began.

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