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Al Cohn/Zoot Sims: Easy as Pie

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The main story here, for me anyway, is that this CD, recorded in 1968, contains at least one track with the kind of playing that Zoot Sims had in him but rarely displayed.

Sims has always been a frustrating guy for me to listen to. He was among the most naturally swinging jazzman I’ve ever heard, but Sims didn’t put a lot of emphasis on continuity, frequently playing short, simple and sometimes melodically uninteresting licks, when he should’ve, in my opinion, been lengthening his phrases and building more momentum. On Live at the Left Bank’s “Expense Account” he does this, improvising long, double-time lines, and boy, does he sound good, keeping the fire going throughout his spot. He also turns in substantive, cohesive work on “Mr. George.” Sims was also a natural, unselfconscious blues player, as he demonstrates on “Blue Hodge.”

Like his saxophonist partner here, Al Cohn, Sims was marked by Lester Young’s style. When they played together in the 1950s, though, Cohn could be distinguished from Sims by his heavier tone. Here, however, Sims’ sonority has thickened, and he uses rasps reminiscent of Ben Webster’s work.

Cohn shows he was the more-popular Sims’ equal as a tenorman, a very melodic player who swung strongly and put his ideas together with the intelligence you’d expect from a top composer-arranger. Both men can be heard playing soulfully on their ballad features.