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Philadelphia Jazz Pianist James “Sid” Simmons Dies

Pianist played with Grover Washington, Jr, Bootsie Barnes and other Philadelphia jazz stalwarts

The Visitors, with Carl and Earl Grubbs. Sid Simmons at top.
The Visitors, with Sid Simmons (far right)
James "Sid" Simmons

Pianist James “Sid” Simmons died on Friday, November 5, 2010 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after a long illness. The cause of death was cardiac arrest. He was 63 years old. According to Suzanne Cloud, the executive director of the Jazz Bridge organization, which had acted as a medical advocate for Simmons, the pianist had recently undergone surgery.

The tall gentlemanly Simmons was a ubiquitous presence on the Philadelphia jazz scene, performing regularly at venues such as TnT Monroe’s, Ortlieb’s, Zanzibar Blue and Chris’s Café. Early in his career Simmons was a member of The Visitors, a group led by saxophonists Carl and Earl Grubbs. Later in just his twenties, he was a member of Locksmith a band of Philadelphia jazz players, including Tyrone Brown, John Blake, Leonard “Doc” Gibbs and Millard “Pete” Vinson, who backed Grover Washington, Jr. both live and on record, including on Live at the Bijou and Reed Seed. The group also recorded its own albums, but never really gained traction and the members went their own way-Blake to McCoy Tyner’s band and later his own solo career, Brown to Max Roach’s band and the rest to various sideman jobs. He also recorded with Valery Ponomarev (Messenger, A Star For You, Live in Denver, Live at Vartan), John Swana (Philly Gumbo, Volume 2) and Mike Boone (Better Late Than Never, Yeah, I Said It! ).

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