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Sonny Simmons: Manhattan Egos

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Sonny Simmons was one of the best free jazz musicians on the San Francisco scene in the ’60s and ’70s. He often worked with Prince Lasha during this period, but earlier associations included Mingus and such R&B heavies as T-Bone Walker. Manhattan Egos is a reissue and it certainly dates better than a lot of free jazz of the time; the original writing is quite effective, though the English horn feature, “Seven Dances of Salome,” does wear thin. Simmons and trumpeter Barbara Donald were somewhat influenced by the Ayler brothers and more than somewhat by Coltrane, and the music here is every bit as successful as that of such East Coast, ’60s free-jazz altos Charles Tyler, Marion Brown and Marzette Watts.

An unissued live session, with Michael White, Kenny Jenkins and Eddie Marshall, makes Manhattan Egos particularly notable. White’s violin was probably never heard in such an uncompromising setting, and it’s great to hear this excellent rhythm team at the top of their game. Simmons’ impassioned blowing here shows that he deserves a closer listen than he got the first time around.