Selection: Love for Sale
Zoot Sims (tenor sax),Stan Tracey (piano) Kenny Napper (bass) Jackie Dougan (drums), other tracks: Ronnie Scott (tenor sax) Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet),Harold McNair (alto sax & flute) Terry Shannon (piano) Jeff Clyne (bass) Phil Seamen (drums)
Recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s club, London, November 13 to 15th 1961.
Love for Sale is a stonking 12 minute edit, compared with the 6 minute edit on “Cookin'”. Zoot is on fire and doesn’t intend to be put out, more bars than San Quentin. I’ll let other reviewers push the keyboard letters while I put my feet up:
“Zoot Sims was the first American jazzman to perform at Ronnie Scott’s club. This being such an important event Fontana Records taped three evenings worth of music which also included performances by some leading British jazzmen of the day. The music was issued on two LPs, `Zoot at Ronnie Scott’s (below) ` and `Solo for Zoot`. Both quickly disappeared from the catalogue. The tracks featuring Zoot reappearing in truncated re-issue form as the LP `Cookin’ .
With typical élan Zoot peels off chorus after chorus of eloquent inventiveness in that ageless style we have come to come to identify as modern mainstream… the music absolutely flies”
“Never a musician to chase trends, Zoot always kept two classic jazz principles in mind: Always play with indomitable swing, and have faith in the infinite variety to be gleaned from a familiar set of chord changes.”
Zoot’s vocabulary is absolute tenor mastery: broad linear anchor-points from the song melody textured with vibrato and “borrowed time” repeated in many different permutations and dressed with grace-notes , linked by improvised sorties up and down the register, interspersed with rapid-fire figures and backflips, all the time staccato repeat-notes punching on the beat to hold everything in tempo. You just have to hang on tight for the ride, and what a ride. Two friends I invited for a listening session were tapping their feet so much I was about to call in an emergency home-visit chiropractor.
Vinyl: Fontana TFL 5176 Zoot At Ronnie Scotts
This copy turned up unexpectedly on the wall of a suburban record store specialising in “collectible” ’60s rock and pop. The last time I popped into this store, a young and very polite Japanese buyer from Tokyo’s Disk Union was filling up his carry trolley with 45’s before heading for the next London store on his list. “They never look at the jazz section“, the owner Steve confided. “That’s left to their American buyers“. That’s a relief, as Zoot caught my eye, I don’t need Tokyo competition.
One glance at the spindle hole tells it was a much-loved record, played over and over again. I feel a twinge of sympathy. Zoot swings so much I’ve played it again and again myself. His enthusiasm is infectious once he gets in the groove, you don’t want it to stop either. When they finally fade the edit at 12 minutes, it is a brutal wrench. “Hey, whadja doin’? I want more!” There’s a CD that offers all three nights of recordings, apparently. But who wants to listen to a CD?
I paid a lot of money for “Cookin'”, then I paid a lot for “Zoot at Ronnie Scotts” But whenever I put Zoot’s full 12 minute version of Love For Sale on the turntable, there are no regrets. That’s the funny thing with money, sometimes you get all picky about whether something is $12 or $15, other times, the money is absolutely irrelevant. Worse things happen in life than overspending on records.
Conversation Piece: Live jazz recordings
One enthusiastic Ebay seller comments on this Zoot at Ronnie Scotts album: “This is without doubt one of the finest “live” jazz albums ever released…” I could add to that list, but it is certainly one of the finest from this period. The atmosphere in Ronnie Scott’s club enhances the music not just because of the room-filling acoustics and audience appreciation, or the sense of “being there“, but because Zoot rises to the occasion, spurred on in the performance, and with his fellow musicians, generates propulsion and swing that is hard to replicate in take six or seven of any studio session. It improves the music, and it’s a rollercoaster.
Live recordings are of course no guarantee of a night of musical magic. I’m still grappling with the ten-record set of Miles complete At the Plugged Nickel (Mosaic), in which some sides consist of little more than Miles squawking going nowhere in particular, while some suit too near the microphone is holding court in a business conversation, giving me an irresistible urge to punch him in the mouth. The session is not especially well miked, to my ears, Anthony Williams especially just splish and splash in a back corner.
The Complete Miles In Person at the Blackhawk (Mosaic MQ6-220) is the complete opposite, spellbinding in the presence of greatness session, Mobley Uncut! Described by the New York Times as “the gold standard for straight-ahead, postwar jazz rhythm”, the Mosaic set is laid out in chronology of Friday and Saturday Night over six LPs (unlike previous doubles), you sense the Miles team coming together, a little stiff in the opening numbers, beginning to warm up, then absolutely cooking, and by the end of Saturday Night, speeding up and in a hurry to get the gig over with, and get home, to a large scotch. The recording is near-perfection for live recording, and I made a feature of enjoying it over two nights, just like the real thing. It gave me much more than the two album edited and reordered editions Friday Night and Saturday Night, fine though I thought they were.
May be you have some thoughts or pet hates in Live jazz recordings, some favourites or perhaps a top ten. You are welcome to share, the floor is yours.