Zoot Sims: Koo Koo (1956) Status

Selection: On The Minute (Eardley)


Jon Eardley (trumpet) Milt Gold (trombone) Phil Woods (alto sax) Zoot Sims (tenor sax) George Syran (piano) Teddy Kotick (bass) Nick Stabulas (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 13, 1956. This reissue on the Prestige Status label, 1965.

Musical ghosts:

Milt Gold –   a previous owner of this copy annotated the liner notes to claim it is a pseudonym for Bob Brookmeyer.  Alternatively, there was actually a Stan Kenton trombonist called Milt Gold, who has a respectable discography. You wouldn’t choose a another real artists name as your pseudonym, would you.  Who is playing here? Is there a trombonist in the house?

George Syrianoudis played under the abbreviated name George Syran. He definitely existed as a ’50s jazz pianist, but disappeared from view over many decades.

A common link between these artists and others associated with mid ’50 jazz groups is the  Open Door bar/restaurant in New York:

“The Open Door bar restaurant was frequented by jazz musicians (including Charlie Parker), which they soon began to use as a place for jam sessions. Dan Morganstern remembered it as a “haven for jazz people with no money” . Drummer Al Levitt recalls musicians like Herb Geller, Gene Quill, Jon Eardley, Milt Gold, and Ronnie Singer, dropping in to play.”

“The casualty rate amongst this generation of jazz men was high. Quill was badly injured in a road accident and spent the rest of his life virtually immobilised, Singer committed suicide, and Eardley had an up-and-down career due to drug addiction.”

Eardley moved to Europe in 1963, first to Belgium and then Germany and the Cologne scene, which effectively took him off the US radar.  Prestige no doubt felt safe in reshuffling the artist billing on this recording. During his three decades in Europe, Eardley maintained friendships with many British jazz musicians who played frequently in Cologne and Berlin, including Peter King, Allan Ganley, Ian Carr, Mike Pyne and Peter Ind, and even recorded three albums in London in 1977 for the British Spotlite label. . An interesting interview with English music journalist Les Tomkins with Eardley  here fills in a lot of the blank spaces in the usual US jazz sources. “I’m an Englishman twice removed, because my family came from Stoke” Crikey!  He was one of ours!


Straight ahead  mid-’50s swinging bop, this era was heralded as the transition from swing to bop, but my, does it swing.  The pairing of Zoot Sims and Phil Woods is magnificent, both bursting with unstoppable high energy flow, powered along by a driving rhythm section.

It is a complete delight to follow the solos, which seem to over-run their allotted time, but no problem, both Woods and Sims are great. Though Woods is beautiful,  Zoot stands as  a bridge between the old school of tenor players and the new, and it is Sims that has The Force with him.

Vinyl : Status ST 8309 mono (matrix NJLP 8309) VAN GELDER

Monster 195 gram vinyl – no-one mid-’60s pressed vinyl at this weight, I take it as a mistake not a virtue. Status Koo Koo is a 1965 vintage reissue, VAN GELDER stamp (not initials). Rudy  must have gone back and re-mastered this recording for Prestige sometime in the early/mid ’60s, intended for the New Jazz label, but a business decision was made to put it out on Status, with a third cover,  design and photo by Don Schlitten. There is also a tiny but visible stamp “DM” in the runout on both sides, meaning unknown.

Now, play Follow My Leader:

There have been at least three Prestige issues of this recording under different leader names and album titles, which highlights the label’s acute sensitivity to the  changing standing of different artists – Jon Eardley, Phil Woods and Zoot Sims.

The original PRLP 7033 featured The Jon Eardley Seven. Seriously classic cover art, first Fireworks NY label, and reportedly RVG “stamp” (or hand-etched initials,  no ebay seller seemed to see the significance to say)

Within only a year or two, oh oh, it’s PRLP 7033, again, but a not too subtle change of identity – Down East, begone Jon Eardley Seven.

A second issue of PRLP 7033 appeared (left) , still on Fireworks 446W labels and also “RVG stamped” (same metal I suspect), but retitled “Down East“.  Zoot Sims now heads the list of artists, Woods at No.2, Eardley demoted to third billing, but gets capital letters to soften the blow. Both versions are frequently touted as “original”.

This second issue appears to be the source of the UK Esquire release, similarly entitled “Down East“.  UK Esquire 32-040 – which I have previously posted (different track selection) however noted at the time, no RVG initials/ stamp on the Esquire, which is an exceptional, as Esquire were almost always were supplied with US original metal. This time around there is another story. Is there  connection?

Status record label alert:  recycled vinyl!

Weinstock up to his old tricks again. If you tilt the vinyl land against the light,  you can see light reflection in the run-out breaking up due to tiny fragments of paper labels from  old vinyl used to bulk up the vinylite.  Fortunately this one doesn’t sound much, but  you should always check everything Prestige-in the early to mid-’60s for this pernicious practice. With virgin-vinyl, the reflection off the vinyl land should be smooth as glass.

Collector’s Corner

This copy sourced from a London East End shop of  hipster location, a true vinyl store in London’s Hoxton/Hackney, now an area now bustling with “vinyl junk shops”, mostly just bric-a-brac, loft clearance and attic-finds turned down by thrift shops, not a single collectible item anywhere, but boxes of it. It’s just vinyl “fashion”, as in the beards and hats seen in abundance.

Honesty Box: I bought this believing it was a Zoot album I had never before seen. Partly, it emerges, that was true, I hadn’t actually seen that cover before. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. Who would have, this album has had more identities than Moriarty in pursuit of Sherlock Holmes.

No matter, I now have a VAN GELDER mastered copy to complement my vangelderless Esquire. That’s not so bad a result, and I love the music. If anything, my mistake had the benefit of reintroducing me to an album I hadn’t played for some time. As my old  mum used to say, there is often something good that comes out of something bad. Unfortunately, experience has taught me the opposite is also often true.

And I’ve also learned some lessons not too painful about the nefarious practices at Prestige, and the Status label. That might have some payback in future.

Have any of you bought a record before, only to find out you already owned it? Own up. At least I’ve got it’s convoluted reissue history  as an excuse.

UPDATE: More records with multiple identities

Winner’s Circle, Bethlehem Records



14 thoughts on “Zoot Sims: Koo Koo (1956) Status

  1. I passed up the original Eardley album because I didn’t much care for his playing, but he is great on this track. Zoot and Phil are dyne-o-mite! The “Koo Koo” album I have never seen or heard of before. As far as recordings are concerned, 1956 was a stellar year for Sims. He made wonderful albums under his own name, and equally wonderful albums with others. I have deliberately bought duplicate albums because of price. I have also bought two or three albums that were issued on different labels with different titles but the same albums. In several cases, I have bought the same album on different labels for the sake of having the contrasting labels. Example: “Jazz Mission to Moscow” on Colpix and the same album with the same cover on the Ghent Records label.

  2. I understand that Bethlehem records recycled Winner’s Circle by Oscar Pettiford’s All Stars (BCP 6024) into John Coltrane in the Winner’s Circle (BCP 6066) and latter into John Coltrane Turning Point just changing the covers.

  3. The Status pressings are great (excepting recycled vinyl of course). The orange label is not especially attractive, but they are heavy, sound terrific, and are usually very affordable, and often have the original cover art. I have a Status pressing of Oliver Nelson – Main Stem that is just tip-top all around. I’m always happy to see clean Status pressings for bargain prices.

  4. I had a listen to the Zoot Sims Plays Alto, Tenor and Baritone a little while back, and as there was no review in the AMG, I added one. I started by saying “Zoot Sims’ 1956 was a bit like Sonny Rollins 1958. A great album was completed every few weeks”. The clip of this confirms that once more, as this is another great one I have to look out for.

  5. Where would I look on the net for some of the Zoot LPS you described so well? Where in the U.S.A.? Thanks. Thomas Grund (I play tenor myself)

    On Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 1:30 PM, LondonJazzCollector wrote:

    > LondonJazzCollector posted: ” Selection: On The Minute (Eardley) … > Artists Jon Eardley (trumpet) Milt Gold (trombone) Phil Woods (alto sax) > Zoot Sims (tenor sax) George Syran (piano) Teddy Kotick (bass) Nick > Stabulas (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, J” >

    • I’m afraid everyone is in the same position. These are “antiques”. The vinyl is over fifty years old, so the first place to look is on ebay and bettter still, Discogs, to see if there are any copies of Zoot records for sale that are acceptable price and condition. After that, have a look in Dusty Groove. You just have to keep looking, all records will come to market at some time.

  6. gosh, this is a really strong date from what I can tell, and I’ve never heard it before (though I recognize the Eardley cover from ojc’s in the bins). Will have to seek it out in some form or another.

  7. I’ve made several duplicate purchases over the years. A couple of times it was intentional to obtain a cleaner copy, but typically I was just careless/forgetful. But those days are over now that I keep my collection listing (rather than my mind) in the cloud.

  8. IMHO: the former owner of your KOO-KOO is wrong when suggesting Milt Gold = Bob Brookmeyer. Milt’s sound is not brookmeyerien, nor is his picture in any way resembling to Bob’s.

  9. These early Van Gelders can sound terrific. Plus: Weinstock’s recycling habits apart, I have always preferred his sonic approach to Alfred Lyon’s. Just saying.

  10. The older I get the more I forget what I have! BUT I never turn down a 1st. pressing at a great price. When I get home, I select the best cover and the best record. One goes on the shelf and the other will get sold. Sometimes a “woops” ends up a “oh yea”.

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