Sonny Simmons: Judgment Day

Simmons arrived in the early ’60s, playing avant garde alto saxophone. He reappeared 30 years later on Ancient Ritual (Warner Bros.). On Judgment Day, he plays tenor exclusively and is joined by Michael Marcus on manzello, C-melody saxophone, and bass clarinet, Steve Neil on bass, and Charles Moffett on drums.

Simmons emerges as a man on a mission. In his liner comments, he says, “The world will be judged by the Sound of Holy Music, which we here represent.” He continues: “It has been said…I can’t play the tenor saxophone. So I am settling the score…”

He unquestionably does the latter, playing with a severe, determined, energetic approach; clean, swirling lines; and a full-bodied tone. This is music in the tradition of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and late-period Coltrane.

Whether this is the soundtrack of the Biblical Judgment remains to be seen. But Simmons and company state an impassioned case. The fidelity of the album, free of post-recording manipulation, is also to be admired.