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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am curious about Zoot's tenor set up. I know he played a Brilhart mouthpiece mostly on a Cigar Cutter, but how open was the mouthpiece and also about the reed? To my ear, I would guess he played harder reeds earlier in his career. I saw him play a number of times in Toronto in the 1970s and early 1980s. What a swinger! His time was phenomenal and what a great sound. Today, he doesn't get the kind of attention that some of his contemporaries receive and that's unfortunate. :eek: When I was starting to play in bands some years ago it seemed like Zoot was every player's favourite tenor sax man.
 

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Stretch - I envy you having seen Zoot in person. He's one of my all time favorites!

I believe Zoot used a Super (perhaps Radio Improved) rather than a Cigar Cutter. On the old forum someone indicated a serial number renge, but I've forgotten what it is. My understanding is that he bought it used in the late-40's. As for mouthpieces, Zoot used primarily Brilhart HR (both regular and Personaline models) for most of his career, although I understand he used a Woodwind Company HR from time to time as well. I have no idea what size tip opening or which reeds (or strength) he used.

On the booklet of the CD "Tenorly" is a picture of a very young Zoot Sims playing what appears to be a "Chu" (opposing bell keys) with a metal mouthpiece. Perhaps this was his set-up with Herman. Anyone have any ideas on this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Zoot's playing in the 1970's was the ultimate. Robust and full bodied tone, his sound evolved a long way from the "Four Brothers" era and I am not sure what Zoot did to open up his sound; whether it was equipment or some physical aspect like opening up the throat or loosening up the jaw. The recording that epitomizes Zoot's live sound in my mind is the Pablo recording "Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers" w/ Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, George Mraz and Grady Tate. Great recording, and it's no coincidence that OP is the piano player on two other favorite recordings, "Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio" and "Sonny Stitt Sits In With Oscar Peterson Trio", all produced by Norman Granz.

Bob Ackerman mentioned in a telephone conversation to me some time ago that Zoot had pieces of cork glued to the inside of his tone holes to tune his horn. It seems that saxes of that vintage had the big mid range but were inconsistant in intonation.

Alcohol often has an adverse effect on saxophone performance but this wasn't the case as I recall one evening as I witnessed Zoot's playing at "Bourbon Street" [defunct Toronto jazz club]. By the last set he was obviously under the influence, staggering around and speaking incoherently, but it did not impair Zoot's ability to swing whatsoever! It was chorus after chorus of impassioned, gutsy playing. Saddly, the last time I saw Zoot perform back in February 1984 he was obviously affected by the disease he ultimately succumbed to. He was playing while sitting on a stool and drinking a glass of milk on stage. That wonderful energy was sapped right out of him.
 

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Quote:
Stretch: Today, he doesn't get the kind of attention that some of his contemporaries receive and that's unfortunate.

It might have been an attempt by critics to redress what they felt was undue attention given to Zoot. As great as he was, he was largely self-taught, and I think he lost credibility among schooled players because of that. People decided that he wasn't as harmonically imaginative as Al Cohn or some others of his circle. I was even told, second-or-third-hand, that he couldn't identify any chords by name except major and minor.

He's still one of my favorites.[/i][/quote]
 

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I saw Zoot with Al Cohn once at Blues Alley in D.C. Mid 70s I think. Both cats were cooking. But I couldn't help noticing that Zoot was really pouring down the booze. Glass after glass of what looked like scotch on the rocks. But it didn't seem to affect him. He was playing as well at the end of the gig as he was at the beginning.
 

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I'm with you on the Zoots praise. His playing on Pheobe Snow's first album was one of my motivations to learn the sax. On to the question of why he doesn't get the respect. If people think lesser of him because he was self-taught, how does that reflect on the originators of jazz? I just got a boxed set of Coleman Hawkins, and I understand that he received lessons from an early age in both piano and cello. Since the saxophone was a fairly new instrument at the time, and he was at the forefront of the development of jazz, he would not have any knowledge of jazz theory. Was he using his knowledge of music theory (don't really know how extensive that was) or just playing by gut feeling of what sounds good? It's hard to deny that he pretty much invented the sound of jazz saxophone playing, so why would anyone care as to what his training was? If Zoots had something original to offer, and he did, what difference should it make where it came from? I think a lot of this kind of snobbery still goes on, when in the end, isn't it all about the sound?
 

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Supposedly Coleman Hawkins took pride in his knowledge of theory and harmony and would probably be considered a "schooled" musician by the standards of the time. Lester Young, on the other hand, was reported to have known very little about theory, and apparently didn't care. Both Hawk and Prez were great players with very different approaches to jazz improvisation.
 

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Whats great about these old masters was that many of them did not have much formal training,they were self-taught and learned their craft on the bandstand which is the most effective (and fastest) way to learn anyway.It was still possible in the 30´s,40´s and even 50´s to be primarly a "by-ear player" and still make it as a pro,probably something that explains the original styles of many of these players.People like Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young had to invent their styles because there wasn´t much jazz played on the saxophone before them,nothing ground-breaking anyway.As great thing as the music education system of today is,learning everything that has been done in jazz for the past 80 years and developing a personal style after that is very hard thing to do.
 

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pfox: If Zoots had something original to offer, and he did, what difference should it make where it came from? I think a lot of this kind of snobbery still goes on, when in the end, isn't it all about the sound?
It is. Or it would be, if everybody could own up to the fact.

The snobbery in jazz is probably stronger than it's ever been. There's this idea, supported by academia I think, that the music is too far along for self-taught players to figure prominently any longer.

You won't hear anybody saying it outright, I don't think, because they're all aware of the contributions of the pioneers. But nowadays we want everybody on the same page with regards to theory, technique, etc. That gets you credentials and respect. The idea that originality could come from outside of that world has gotten lost - at least in music, although it's still holding on in other arts (drama and literature).

Jazz used to be filled with outsiders. They're hard to find now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
As great as he was, he was largely self-taught, and I think he lost credibility among schooled players because of that. People decided that he wasn't as harmonically imaginative as Al Cohn or some others of his circle. I was even told, second-or-third-hand, that he couldn't identify any chords by name except major and minor.
Hey RS,

I have read an interview of Red Rodney where he said exactly the same thing about Charlie Parker.....and also I play in a big band with an old school tenor player who doesn't want to know about chord changes but his ears never fail him. Knowledge is a good thing, I agree, and Zoot was not as sophisticated harmonically as many of his contemporaries. But in terms of feel, time and and having an istantaneously identifiable sound, he was wonderful. A natural musician, not a schooled one.

Stretch
 

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Stretch--I'd hate to argue with Red Rodney who probably knew Bird as well as anyone but it seems to me that Bird knew his chords and theory alot better than maybe he let on. He reportedly spent alot of time with Diz exchanging ideas and coming up with new and sophisticated ways of negotiating chord progressions (altered chords, substitutions, etc.). Also at one point he was considering studying composition from one of the major composers of the time (Varese I think) so he was not opposed to incorporating study and theoretical knowledge into his playing. Still he built the foundation of his style on the playing of Lester Young who, as I mentioned above, was strictly a "from the heart" player.
 

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Zoot Sims Reply

Zoot Sims-
What an amazing player everything he played swung!!! I have got a CD of Duets with him and Joe pass and they are incredible. Whether he learned it in school or on the bandstand or by ear is irrelevant the man could play the sh*t out of that horn.
 

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Mor

Paulwl,

Right on!!! Isn't this music about originality and making a statement with your horn and saying something. Who cares how we get there. Everyone learns in there own way there is no one path there are many. Someone who learned in school should not be put down because that was the path that worked for him/her as well as the person who did not go to school and got to the same place. My Dad who was my first music teacher(piano) said to me once when I asked wheter someting was correct or not said in music there are no rules if it sounds good to you then it is good. if everyone follwed the same path we would have no Ornette Colemans,John Zorns, Albert Ayler's, John Coltrane, Miles Davis everyone would sound the same. That is my soapbox for the day!!
 

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It's great to see all of this discussion about Zoot. He was a cat who found his voice and stuck with it. Whether it was playing Gershwin with Oscar Peterson, hard bop and Mingus with Pepper Adams or "Pop" with Phoebe Snow he always swung hard. Where others are considered more harmonically inventive, Zoot focused on being melodic and there were few with his sense of time. Listening to Zoot Sims always puts a smile on my face and a tap in my foot.
 

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I too think that Zoot is a very under-rated player. He is well worth listening to. Personally, I don't listen to him much, but his isn't quite the style that I want to emulate (many people around here would know about my leanings toward Getz). But despite this, I do occasionally listen to him, and it is well worth it.

He was one of the best musicians of his time, so why shouldn't he get the recognition that he deserves? I don't care that he didn't know his chords - he knew what to do when he hear the chords being played behind him, and that's what counts. In a way, this means that he did know his chords, but not "theoretically". This isn't to say that I don't believe in knowing your chords "theoretically", but you also have to know what to play when your ears hear a certain thing, even if you can't identify it.

Three cheers for Zoot! May his CD's be played forever!
:)
 

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He was one of the best musicians of his time, so why shouldn't he get the recognition that he deserves?
There are any number of reasons artist don't get the recognition they deserve - or have it withdrawn. Most of them boil down to fashion or politics (musical, academic, or social) - beliefs that masquerade as true musical "values."
 

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I too have to admit seeing this nice long thread about Zoot.

Fortunately, I had saved off some info about Zoots setup from the old thread, it was a Lacquered Radio Improved Serial# 20308 which he played with Rubber Brilhart or Woodwind Co's mpcs.
(Does anybody know what particular Selmer Super & mpcs. Cohn Played?)
the info came from Baribri (I think) who posted that he saw (and maybe even sat in with?) Zoot on several occasions at an NYC Club.

Regarding whether or not Zoot could read, my pure Guess is that he probably knew so many tunes that he didnt need to read. My old teacher said that back when the bigband era was in full swing, all of the bigname acts auditioned and could pick and choose the very best players and Woody Herman had it in his famed Four brothers of: Getz, Sims, Cohn & Chaloff.
 

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Zoot sims' set up

Nice to see an interest in dear old Zoot. Anyone out there like to share with us their favourite tracks or albums to help improve my knowledge of this sax man.John
 

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He played since his Herman days a Radio Improved 199xx like Al Cohn. The whole section played the same horns (incl. Serge!). I have only one photo where he plays a Personaline. On all the others he plays a Bril. Hard Rubber.
Some of the greatest records I have is Zoot with the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band from the early 60s. Zoot and Al are just beautiful!!!
 

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The serial number on Zoot Sims' horn is 20308. It is plain as day at the opening of a video entitled "In a Sentimental Mood" that he made a couple of months before his death with Red Mitchell and Rune Gustafson in Sweden. At the opening of the video he discusses how he bought the horn when he was Woody Herman from a Canadian who became a chiropractor. While he is discussing the horn he holds it up for the camera. The Selmer logo and the serial number are clearly visible.
 
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