It was Max Roach who recommended I hire Pete La Roca Sims, and that says it all—it’s a pretty high recommendation. We worked together only for a brief period, about two years, and traveled to Europe together during that time. And we had a good time, great chemistry on the bandstand.
Pete was an expert drummer. He was one of those people who you don’t have to tell what to do. This is very important. You find a lot of musicians who are always asking the leader, “What about this? What should I do here? How should I hit that?” And I remember Miles, for one, having to just come out and say to musicians, “Don’t ask me questions. You should already know what to do when you’re playing with me.” The person who’s asking you how to do everything, that person is not ready.
With Pete, that was not the case. He was able to use his own creativity and play the music. I gave him the material, my repertoire, and he was able to express himself within the confines of that repertoire and still be of service to the band. That’s the beauty of jazz: Jazz is a free, impressionistic music where the artist has a chance to express him or herself, and Pete was a fine player in that regard.
My memories of Pete aren’t that personal—I recall having met his mother one time in Harlem, where he was living at that point—but I didn’t really associate with him too much off the bandstand. What I knew was that he did his job. That’s why he was working with me, and I have only high praise for him.
I won’t say I’m sorry that Pete passed away. It’s not a sorry thing to leave this planet; he’s graduated from this place we call Earth. I can only say that I’m happy to have had the chance to avail myself of his services and his creativity. Godspeed to him.
As told to Michael J. WestOriginally Published