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

ZootSimmsat-RonnieScotts_cv_1920_LJC

Selection: Love for Sale

Artists:

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.

Music:

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.”

LJC-superbZoot’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

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Collector’s Corner

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

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30 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.

 

 

 

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

  1. You peaked my interest in the “Love for Sale” track(I play tenor myself and love live performances). Do the three CDS you mention contain ALL of the “Love For Sale” track? Thanks, Thomas Grund/Collector/Player 33456thomas@gmail.com

    On Sat, Apr 16, 2016 at 3:24 AM, LondonJazzCollector wrote:

    > LondonJazzCollector posted: ” Selection: Love for Sale Artists: 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) ” >

  2. Is this recording available to buy (vinyl only). Thanks, Thomas Grund

    On Sat, Apr 16, 2016 at 3:24 AM, LondonJazzCollector wrote:

    > LondonJazzCollector posted: ” Selection: Love for Sale Artists: 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) ” >

      • According to the CD “Zoot Sims at Ronnie Scott’s 1961: The Complete Recordings” Love For Sale is 12:36 long, and that claims to be the definitive complete recording, so if it has a fade that is effectively end of piece editing on the original.

        I don’t know of any other edition that has more that 12:36,on CD or vinyl. . I guess that is why the Fontana is highly prized, scarce and fiercely expensive. However compared with ticket prices for top appearances at Ronnie Scotts today, perhaps not so much.

  3. Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco
    Wynton Kelly – Smoking at the Half Note
    Miles At the Blackhawk (as you mentioned)

    Love your website!!!

  4. I find Live recordings can be a real let down, poorly recorded, over long drum solos etc.
    But a few fans are
    Tubby Hayes Down in the Village, (live at Ronnies)
    Art Pepper, Beasme Mucho, Live in Japan, with the massive Mambo De la Pinta!!
    Art Pepper, Live at the Village Vanguard
    Yusef Lateef, Live at Peps
    Theres a Freddie Hubbard LP Called Gleam, live in Japan, although late (75) and pretty funky is good. George Cables is outstanding.
    Modern day Live recordings, Brad Mehldau, any of the numerous live dates (only on ESD!)

  5. I find Live LPs can be a real let down, badly recorded, over long drum solos etc ..but a few stand out for me..
    Tubby Hayes, Down In the Village, (Live at Ronnies)
    Art Pepper, Besame Mucho live in Japan, with that massive version of Mambo de la Pinta!!
    Art Pepper at the Village Vanguard
    Yusef Lateef, live at Peps…Ooh!
    Modern day must be the numerous Brad Mehldau live sessions, (sorry ESD only!)

    • I’ll second the Brad Mehldau suggestion. I’ve got Art of the Trio Vol. 4 recorded live at the VV and it is terrific — not just a damned exciting performance of superbly modern, high-flying, high tension piano trio, but splendidly recorded too.

  6. My all-time favorite live jazz recording is the Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall from 1963. The whole quartet was ‘on’ that night, and Joe Morello produced the greatest drum solo I’ve ever heard or will probably ever hear. Their performances of ‘You Go To My Head’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’ from ‘Jazz at Storyville’ are also some of the greatest live jazz recordings in my opinion. But then again, Oscar Peterson recorded some fantastic music in a German studio in the late 1960’s with a live audience that was phenomenal, but I don’t know if that counts as a ‘live’ jazz recording…

    • Good question, what is a “live jazz recording”?

      I think I meant a session recorded in one take before a live audience in a concert setting. Giving the question more thought, I guess the setting is important.

      Intimacy: a club-setting has it, Carnegie Hall is I guess a theatre-setting which is less intimate, my worst nightmare is a stadium-setting. I have a Hancock VSOP in Japan ’70s stadium gig album, everyone pumped to the mixing desk and out through the PA, probably the most horrible recording it’s my misfortune to own.

      Back to Brubeck: I have Pt 2 of the 1963 Brubeck concert on vinyl, but orange CBS UK release which never impressed, but I’ll give it another spin.

      • for me, for what it is worth, a live recording is a recording in a club setting. That is what it meant to be.
        For instance, JATP concert recordings are certainly live, but they of an other category.
        One of the most intimate live recordings I know is Gerry Mulligan at the Haig with Lee Konitz in 1953. One can hear the sound of glasses tinkling (is that English? too lazy to take my dictionary), but it is not hindering in any way.

    • Speaking of Brubeck, we recently picked up the Brubeck and Tony Bennett White House Sessions double LP on Impex, and the Brubeck record (disc 1) might well be the best-sounding, highest-fidelity record we own. I’m a 100% mono original guy, and not a modern remaster/reissue fan. But this record sounds AMAZING!!!! Truly remarkable. Highly highly highly recommended.

  7. Live recording sessions, or recorded concerts/club dates, are not always successful. Often the sound is below studio standards and the playing is sloppy.
    An excellent intermediate solution was the “All Night” session by Hampton Hawes on CR, relaxed, uninhibited playing, but excellent sound.
    I have heard the John Coltrane Quartet live on several occasions. Their live Village Vanguard recordings on Impulse are very close to the concert reality which is still grooved in my subconscious.

    • Some useful reminders there, Rudolf,

      I have all three volumes of the Hawes All-niters on Contemporary Vogue, not played in some time, also the HMV edition of Impulse A10 Coltrane Live at the V V, likewise, a long time since it was acquainted with the turntable.

      With 1600 records snoozing on the shelves, it is good to fish some of them out for spin, get to know them again. With playing times years apart, personal tastes have often evolved, you hear them with fresh ears, often with finer appreciation.

    • “Prolix”: using too many words and therefore boring or difficult to read or listen to.
      I had to look that up Alun, not part of my usual vocabulary, but it’s a point of view, fair enough.

      • Hi LJC, Thanks — I know there’s always room here for minority views.

        Miles often said “too many musicians play too many ****ing notes” and I have always thought he had something there…

        • That’s my abiding memory of him at Hammersmith in ’67.
          Came on for his solos, back to the audience, dropped a few precious pearls on to the stage then walked off again til his next contribution leaving Williams Hancock etc to work on them. Genius.

  8. I love the sound on Kenny Dorham’s Live at Cafe Bohemia. My Toshiba edition of this is unusually sturdy and has a laminated cover – I think that means it must be an early pressing.
    Of course Art Blakey’s Live at Birdland is essential particularly because of the presence of Clifford Brown. I also love Gato Barbieri’s Live in New York.
    But the greatest live album I have heard is not jazz but rock ‘n’ roll: Jerry Lee Lewis’s Live at the Star Club Hamburg. I’m sure his piano must have collapsed in a burning heap after this incredible date.

    • Goodness… Gracious… Great balls of…Frikadellen!

      Rolling Stone says: “Live At The Star Club, Hamburg is not an album, it’s a crime scene: Jerry Lee Lewis slaughters his rivals…”

      Sounds like an album worth seeking out.

      That Toshiba – is it an LNJ series? (1976-7 Pre-King era Toshiba). Curious as a couple of these have quite taken me by surprise with their feisty superior engineering.

      • The Toshiba is definitely not pre-King. I did do a little research at Microgroove when I bought it and listened to it – I didn’t expect it to be so exceptional SQ wise. According to the site, some Toshiba series issued heavier vinyl with a laminated cover for the early runs. I can’t quite remember whether this is 80s or early 90s. All I can say is that it’s probably the best sounding Toshiba I have. Obviously the recording is exceptional otherwise it wouldn’t sound as fleshed out and well-balanced as it does but I have to add, I don’t own this record in any other format.
        The Star Club is must-buy once you’ve heard just one track – a classic.

  9. One of my favourite live albums is the double album by the Joshua Redman Quartet at the Village Vanguard: Spirit Of The Moment (1995)- a great atmosphere beautifully caught!

    A fantastic “My One And Only One” rendition included!!!

    Joshua Redman (saxophones), Peter Martin (piano), Christopher Thomas (bass), Brian Blade (drums)

  10. One of my favorites is Wes Montgomery’s Full House. A 1962 live session with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. Even the liner notes starts out with “To describe this as ‘The Wes Montgomery album that a great many people have been waiting for’ runs the risk of seeming to put down, at least by comparison, his previous records.” The recording and mastering is exquisite and everyone seems to be at the top of their game. It might of been a Monday night but it has that Saturday night 3AM vibe.

  11. Near the top of my list of indispensable LJC quotes – “Worse things happen in life than overspending on records.” (But my wonderful wife could only force a chuckle.).

    Regarding irritating live recordings…I’m a big fan of Keith Jarrett’s music and he often records live. However, the man does have a reputation for arrogant behavior so I can only guess that the 3 minutes of recorded audiance applause at the end of his performances is some sort of ego-massaging. Totally annoying. I find myself leaping from my chair to lift the tonearm from the record.

  12. I took out membership to Ronnie Scotts club on my 18th birthday in 1986. Prior to that they would not let me in as I looked “too you”. Bollox. Anyway many happy years there until I moved to NZ and now Oz for a few years. I am good friends I h Brian Smith, tenor sax man who played with many in London including Tubby’s band for some time. OK my post is nothing to do with Zoot but it bought back memories..

    P.S my good fri nd Nathan Haines has named his first born Zoot.

  13. Sonny Rollins, I always enjoy particular live recordings of his. The recent Road Shows (or large parts of them!), the live recording he did for Blue Note at the Village Vanguard, with his trio, and the radio shows from Sweden (Dragon). He always seems to be on the verge of achieving something momentous – and he simply can’t stop beleving that it is within his reach AS he is playing. He reaches such incredible levels while searching, that you may find yourself not even surprised when the playing all of a sudden IS perfect, pure bliss.

  14. One of my favourite live albums also recorded at Ronnie’s Art Peppers Blues For The Fisherman and True Blue (from the same date) a truly great recording that makes you feel completely present in the room with Art who’s playing at the top of his game. I would love the complete 7 lp set but that’s big money

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