Zoot Sims at Ronnie Scott’s: Cookin’ (1961) Fontana

Mystery Post 8th December and 9th December –  wrong button pressed for a post still in Draft, not ready for publishing yet, apologies. Twice in two days, WordPress?




Selection: Love For Sale (Porter)


Bonus track: Desperation* (Deuchar)



Zoot Sims (tenor) Stan Tracey (piano) Kenny Napper (bass) Jackie Dougan (drums) Recorded at “Ronnie Scott’s Club”, London, England, November 13-15, 1961

*Desperation: The Ronnie Scott/ Jimmy Deuchar Quintet – add Ronnie Scott (tenor) Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet)


Love for Sale is the standout track, a joyous romp with Zoot firing off chorus after chorus with boundless enthusiasm and drive, high-speed gymnastics, triple somersaults, backflips, effortless fleet runs, twists and turns, picking at the tune while sailing through the changes, high-octane performance which must have been electrifying live.

Tenor forged in the ’40s an ’50s big bands of Goodman, Shaw, Kenton and Rich, Zoot Sims found himself the first great American giant to play England in 1961, following the end of  ban on musicians between here and the USA,   Tubby Hayes gained entry  to the US, to play at the Half Note Club in New York City and record with Roland Kirk among others; in exchange, we got Zoot Sims, to play at Ronnie Scott’s supported by Stan Tracey’s trio.

Fontana recorded Sims over three nights, providing the material for this and other Fontana releases. Though Sims recorded prolifically over his long career, these sessions provide a unique sense of time and place, bringing together the calibre of Sims and the best of  British players, live before an appreciative  audience. Set your watches for 1961, order a whisky and soda, open a pack of cigarettes (no health warning), relax, and enjoy the night in.

With his robust and full-bodied tone, Zoot’s big husky tenor sound is an immediately recognisable voice, warm,  simmering, cooking.  Largely self-taught , Sims was a bridge between the old school of Prez and the younger generation of boppers, perhaps not as sophisticated harmonically as some of his contemporaries, but melodically inventive and relentlessly swinging, sure-footed.

Sims never went on to develop other roles like some of his “brothers”, educator, incubator of young talent, arranger or composer, Zoot Sims put everything he had into being a player, which is what he did best.

Stan Tracey was resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s from 1960 through to 1967, which uniquely must rate as the nearest thing to secure employment in jazz. His vigorous  and assertive style of piano accompaniment, dense block chords and off-centre harmonics  makes for an interesting quartet ensemble beyond simple Zoot and trio. Napper’s bass  is confidently swinging, while Jackie Dougan, a regular of the Stan Tracey Quartet keeps things moving crisply behind the scenes. It sounds like a great jazz club session, as it should.

Vinyl: Fontana FJL 123 original  UK  release.

Unlike many of the Fontana Popular Jazz Series, Cookin’ is not a general compilation of studio recordings  but a live recording from the epicentre of the London jazz scene in 1961 – Ronnie Scotts, Soho, taken from two Fontana LPs which are themselves extremely sought-after: Solo For Zoot (680 982 TL) – and Zoot at Ronnie Scott’s (689 989 TL) . Some of the tracks have been edited down to fit on Cookin’ (Love for Sale halved), and the full session has only recently been released on CD, extensive liner notes courtesy of fount of all knowledge British Jazz, and occasional LJC visitor, Simon Spillett. (Hi Simon!) However, it is not vinyl.

Despite Zoot’s manly jazz credentials, both original Fontana titles lack the all-important girlie cover of the Popular Jazz Series.


Fontana Popular Jazz Series

The Fontana Popular Jazz Series, with their one-word shriek-mark titles,  consisted mostly of  compilations,  introducing artist to the British audience and giving bachelors (or their dad) an excuse to decorate their pad with girlie covers while listening to some cool music


The Dutch version of this series are titled volumes in the “Jazz Club Series” .  The French, typically difficult, dropped some titles and added others to what they called “Plaisir du Jazz” , including  a Lou Bennett album (me neither) “Feeling“, featuring the first blonde with tartan cap,seamed fishnets and heels cover, something I feel urgently that I must have, if only because of its’ total political incorrectness. Elle fume, Plaisir du Jazz indeed. God bless the French.

Lou Bennet Feeling Fr

Cover: laminated thick card, reminiscent of real ’50s covers.


Steel-blue/silver rough textured label circa 1963 original issue.


The Rough and The Smooth of it: the “textured label”

In case any readers are unfamiliar with the textured label, here is a quick primer. For both UK CBS and Fontana, the  textured label (left)  helps identify early original UK pressings from later reissues (right). In the example below, the Ronnie Scott Sextet title is a much later reissue despite its ® 1957 text – smooth label (and the higher matrix code) number tells a different story.


Fontana and CBS  textured labels disappeared in around 1968. The important feature for dating manufacture is the wrinkly texture of the paper used by the printers, not the underlying vinyl. With textured paper, ink can spread more easily into adjoining fibres, and the paper can retain moisture, which has a harmful effect on vinyl if any steam was generated during pressing. The smooth label was progress. Of sorts.

Liner notes:


Collector’s Corner

Is it British Jazz, or American Jazz? It seems it appeals to both, hence the price. Sims has a considerable following, as do followers of British artists in this period.  The top ten auctions concentrated in the $200 – $300 range.


The appeal of Cookin’ is that it shortcuts the alternative of acquiring the two originating Fontana releases, each of which can run to considerably more. Or there’s always the CD for a tenner, get the full 13 minutes of Love For Sale. Sounds a bargain.


In case the PC police are stalking me, a mere cultural observer, of the  two lady jazz singers included in the Popular Jazz Series, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, the covers include a boyfriend to supplement the girlie.  Good to know gender sensitivity was incubating in record marketing of the mid ’60s.

LJC Gets With The Programme!


All this has made me realise I ought to consider taking a leaf from the Fontana book and brighten up the site, fine tune its appeal to a certain jazz-loving demographic. Another LJC first.


If anyone recalls any of Ronnie Scott’s (im)famous dry jokes (on the lines of: “Here’s to our wives and sweetheartsmay they never meet…” or any  ’60s Ronnie Scott’s Club performances, they might want to share, it’s Brit-night…

13 thoughts on “Zoot Sims at Ronnie Scott’s: Cookin’ (1961) Fontana

  1. It’s great to see the collage of Fontana albums. Great covers, right! The Dutch versions are not so expensive here in The Netherlands, as one might expect. Whilst record hunting, I pass them by most of the time though, favoring ‘real’ albums over these compilations.

    A word on Zoot Sims. You rightly mentioned that Sims was more of a player than an educator and composer. This made me think of an album I have and once bought on a flea market for a buck. Sims contributed in his own modest way to education with Alone Together Featuring Zoot Sims And You. It’s a play-along record on the Music Minus One label, about 1968 I guess. For such a thing, the sleeve is great! You can find it on the net. Other musicians that suggested you play along on the MMO label are altoist/flutist Hal McCusick and trumpet player Burt Collins.


  2. Dutch, German, and French “serial” cover art of the ’50s and early ’60s can be very pretty. I still remember the “Pioneers of Jazz” (Coral) and “Kings of Swing” (Brunswick) EP editions. Among the Fontana JCL series, the ones I like best are Volumes 1 – 20, while later instalments show a decline in quality. The ones that appeal least to me are the Freddie Hubbard and Miles/Blakey volumes, with a symmetrical tendency reminiscent of – or even predating – some psychedelic/esoteric cover art (which I never liked much). Another sort of decline was observed in the Philips Jazz Gallery series, with covers becoming less appealing to downright ugly when they started using painted images instead of photography.


  3. Excellent writing as usual LJC.
    Seeing all those ‘popular jazz’ covers together is staggering !
    A bit OT but on what album did Tubby Hayes & Roland Kirk recorded together ?


  4. Rudolf, I suspect the “rabble rousing baritone player” was Harry Klein, who was leading one of the “resident” support bands at Gerrard Street in those days. That would have been July 1965.


  5. I have been to Ronnie Scott’s somewhere in the sixties to listen to Art Farmer’s quartet. Art was advertised as playing the fluegelhorn. I had prepared my female companion for the velvety sound of Art, whilst we would enjoy our supper. But, instead came a rabble rousing baritone player with his quartet who kept on playing and playing and making a lot of noise. I was not all amused since we had come for Art and to spend a quiet (romantic) evening. We had to wait until after the intermission for Art to finally show up.
    I have never known who the baritone player was, but we left with mixed feelings


  6. This may get me banned but I almost picked up a WaxTime reissue of this for $13.99 the other day. Now that you’ve posted, I’ll probably go back and get it. Great post, as usual.


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