2 LP on 1 CD
## 1 - 8 - 'Al And Zoot', 1957, MCA, (3*)
Tenors Al Cohn and Zoot Sims led a regular two-tenor quintet for a few years in the late '50s and then had an occasional musical partnership during the next couple of decades. Accompanied by pianist Mose Allison (who was then unknown), bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Nick Stabulas, the two very complementary tenors play five of Cohn's swinging originals (including "Halley's Comet," named after John Haley "Zoot" Sims!) plus five standards; "Gone with the Wind" originally was on a sampler and has been added to the CD reissue. The mid-to-late '50s were a period of intense recording activity and this album was one of the underrated gems that was somewhat overlooked during the time.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
## 9 - 17 - 'You 'N' Me' - 1960, Mercury, (3*)
The most unusual selection on this Al Cohn-Zoot Sims set from 1960 is "Improvisation for Unaccompanied Saxophones," a short but effective two-tenor workout that through a clever arrangement by Cohn gives one the impression that both saxophonists are using circular breathing. Another departure is "Angel Eyes," which has both Cohn and Sims switching to clarinet and showcases Major Holley's singing and bowed bass. Otherwise, the co-leaders stick to their main instruments and enjoy swinging together with the assistance of Holley, pianist Mose Allison (who would soon be starting his own successful solo career), and drummer Osie Johnson. Reissued on Trip in the 1970s, this out-of-print LP is worth the search.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
Al And Zoot
Al Cohn and Zoot Sims are products of a decade highlighted by change, rebellion, and reassessment of values in jazz and pop music. The '40s saw big bands rise to their zenith of popularity and fall out of favor, singers taking on a new importance, Lester Young at his peak of creativity, and the new music of Parker, Gillespie and Monk making an indelible indentation on musicians and public, alike.
It was the coming of Parker, and the final recognition of Lester Young that were most important to jazz. Why? Because both indicated that jazz could and would grow beyond the limitations of swing, and that the road for jazz was an ever-widening one.
Indeed, the ten year span of this decade was filled with experimentation. They were years of advocating this and that, and the critics lined up on one side of the fence or the other-the traditionalists against the modernists-and the writing in the trade magazines literally bristled with righteousness on both sides.... Out of it all came a sobriety accompanied by the knowledge that jazz could continue growing with an adherence to traditional qualities, and that rebellion against the established mores in jazz were just part of the growing process of the new music.
For the musicians who got started in the '40s as Al and Zoot did, there was the benefit of being exposed to elements of old and new. This, something that is not quite so prevalent in the days since Parker, for many musicians do not see beyond his rather imposing shadow.
Both Al and Zoot got their schooling in the big-bands; a training ground that has sent many of its students to better things. Many have said, and rightfully so, that there is no substitute for the knowledge that can be derived from sitting in a section night after night next to more knowing musicians. Phrasing and dynamics is given constant illustration, and then, there is the opportunity to learn about solo blowing from these same musicians who are constantly in your company.
Sims started his schooling early; he joined Kenny Baker's band in bis native California in 1941 at the age of 16. Stints with Bobby Sherwood, Bob Astor, Sonny Dunham and Benny Goodman followed before he teamed up with Cohn in the famous "Four Brothers" edition of the Woody Herman orchestra.
Cohn, like Sims, made the big-band scene early. At 18, after graduation from Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, Al joined Joe Marsala's big band. The credit sheet lists Georgie Auld, Alvino Rey and Buddy Rich leading to his association, and resultant nation-wide fame with the "Herman Herd"... 1947-9.
In the Herman band in conjunction with Zoot, Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff, Al became part of a sound called the "four brothers sound." It incorporated the floating, vibrato-less Lester Young sound into sax section ensembles, and came into nation-wide favor with the release of two records by the band; Four Brothers and Early Autumn.. .With the exception ofbaritonist Chaloff, all three tenor men were and are heavily suggestive of Young in their solo work... Both Al and Zoot openly admit their debt to and admiration for Lester....Al: "He was my first inspiration" ....Zoot: "He's the Daddy; nobody's got what he's got" ....
Though peripherally influenced by Parker, Cohn and Sims have never veered too far off course, and have, in fact, expanded on the basic style that Young first created. It is to be noted that the roots of these two musicians run deep in jazz, and Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins and other figures of import in earlier jazz have played a big part in the development of both musicians.
Especially in Al's case, there is a definite affinity for the earlier musicians. He feels that they embody the lack of inhibition and happy feeling he likes to get in his playing.
Since the Herman days, both have played with Artie Shaw, Elliot Lawrence and Stan Kenton, but for the most part, have freelanced: Zoot, on both coasts, including an extended association with Gerry Mulligan; Al, limiting his activities to writing and blowing on recording dates here in the East.
Considering the facts: similarity in background, tastes and feelings about jazz, it was almost inevitable that Al and Zoot would eventually come together on their own recording date... Incidentally, the result was so gratifying that they are going to make it a permanent association.
The three men that Cohn and Sims enlisted for support give every indication of a mutuality with the front-men...
Drummer Nick Stabulus, fast climbing in the estimation of New York jazzmen, is of the modern Roach-Blakey persuasion, and there is a sharpness and steadiness to his time-keeping that is provocative to the player, and stimulating to the listener. He has worked with George Wallington and Phil Woods, and was on drums for Al's first LP for Coral.
Ted Kotick, remembered for his work with Charlie Parker and Stan Getz, serves well here both in sectional and solo capacities. It is his work in the section that is especially notable, for he has the facility to blend the "heart-beat" sound of his bass so well with his section mates.
Pianist Mose Allison rounds out the rhythm section. Only a recent arrival on the New York jazz scene - fall of 1956 - he has worked with Cohn on records and in town, and recently joined the new Stan Getz group. A native of Mississippi, he studied music at the University of Mississippi and Louisiana State University; played extensively throughout the Southwest with his own trio; and worked with Drew Moore in Baton Rouge before coming East... Playing in the manner of Al Haig, he is equally adept as a composer: pushing soloists to better things; and as a soloist: a little boppish, style-wise, creating long-lines with the right hand, inflecting with the left.
Al did all the writing for this session with dominant emphasis, as always, on the blowing. This format, all the more effective in this case, because of the uncanny rapport between Al and Zoot, and, for that matter, within the whole group.
The very heart and substance of this collection is its honest, unleashed swing. There is almost constant motion to this music; a rhythmic vitality born of deference of all concerned for 'time' or the pulse.
The set opens with "It's a Wonderful World" which is in a nice medium-tempo groove, and features the two-tenor ensembles on the opening and close of this sixteen bar tune. Al has the first solo and plays for four choruses, followed by Allison for three, Zoot for four, followed by Teddy, whose solo is unusually tasty. In the eight and four bar interchanges before the closing ensembles, we get a glimpse of how well Al and Zoot compliment each other. For
clarity: Al has first eight, Zoot the second followed by alternate fours for thirty-two bars leading into closing statement.
"Brandy and Beer" is a brisk rhythmic concoction that spots a kaleidoscopic effect of one tenor following the other during the opening. Zoot blows the first solo, then Al, followed by Mose, and Nick's solo leads into the "out" statement.
Al and Zoot turn to the clarinet on the earthy, blue-hued "Two Funky People." Based on an eight bar phrase, Al has the first solo spot, and blows for twenty-four bars followed closely by Zoot, whose solo is of the same length. Teddy has eight during which a Bigardish unison clarinet 'flutter' is utilized in the background; Mose takes eight and leads into the clarinet unison close.
A brisk blues closes side one, and once again, the interplay on the opening and closing portions underline how well these guys work together... Zoot stomps in for the first solo stint (preceded by a short, but exhilarating, four bar bit with Brother Al), and goes on to play six of his best choruses on this record. Al follows suit with seven equally "wailing" choruses, Mose and Teddy have two apiece; and then Zoot initiates a brace of three choruses of "fours" with drummer Stabulus that leads to the close. On the fours, Al alternates with Zoot in the interplay with the drummer.
"Halley's Comet," to lean on the obvious, is a flying up-tempo opus. The "wailing" feeling is established in the opening section. Zoot is first in the solo spotlight; Al is next; a chorus of alternate "fours" by the two tenor men follow with Zoot leading off; Mose has a chorus, and then after a short ensemble, there is a most delightful interweaving of the two horns topped off by a drum break by Stabulus. After all this excitement, there is nothing to do but bring back the theme and take the tune out.
Coming down from the "Comet," we proceed to the extremely melodic, medium tempoed "You're a Lucky Guy." Between the rather straightforward ensemble opening and close, there is mellow vintage Cohn and Sims (in that order), a pleasantly written sixteen bar ensemble, and a pithy eight bar solo by Allison.
"Wailing Beat," one of Cohn's swingingest up-tempo compositions, done originally for the Maynard Ferguson band, is given small group treatment here for the first time. It spots three solo choruses by Al, followed by an ensemble interlude, Zoot for three, and two choruses of bristling four bar interchanges with drummer Stabulus, where Al and Zoot alternate once again. Al plays the first four, and you can adjust your score-card accordingly. Allison is up next for two choruses which, in turn, initiates his close. It is to be noted that Stabulus plays the release on the close.
"Just You, Just Me," taken at a "flagwaver" tempo, closes the album. Highlights: characteristic interweaving of the two horns in the opening section; ensemble riffling in the close, the ensemble-drum interchanges in the latter portions of this track, and Nick's charming little tag on the end of the tune. The solos in order are: Al, Zoot and Mose, who plays the intro to the tune also....
We rest our case. The substance of the evidence lies within, and there can only be one verdict.
- Burt Korall (original liner notes)
The inside story
TYPE OF MUSIC: Free-swinging modern jazz by two celebrated alumni of Woody Herman's
celebrated "Four Brothers" team, each individually known as a tenor sax stylist.
Recorded in New York City, June 1 and 3, 1960. Personnel: Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, tenor saxophones (clarinets on "Angel Eyes"); Mose Allison, piano; Major Holley, bass; Osie Johnson, drums. Produced by Leonard Feather.
With this album EmArcy jazz followers are introduced to a new and highly combustible version of a combo that has had an intermittent but productive life since it burst on the jazz scene a few years ago.
Al Cohn and Zoot Sims are the kind of team that can accurately be described as a natural. The careers of these two modern tenor saxophonists have run parallel in several respects; their musical attitudes have much in common; and most important of all, their manner of expression blends superbly.
Al Cohn, though respected both in jazz and in the broader general field of popular music as a composer-arranger and instrumentalist of impeccable academic and artistic standards, had comparatively little formal training and was completely self-taught on tenor. Born in Brooklyn, November 24, 1925, he took piano and clarinet lessons as a youngster but acquired most of his knowledge empirically. He was still in his teens when he gained his first big-band experience in the orchestras of Joe Marsala and Georgie Auld. After working with Auld off and on from '43-'46 he spent some time in the Alvino Rey and Buddy Rich bands (everybody had a big band in those days), then in January of '48 began what was to be the best-remembered and most crucial stint of his formative,, years, as part of the memorable Second Herd led by Woody Herman, in which the three-tenors-and-baritone sound of the reed section, commemorated at that time in the Jimmy Giuffre composition "Four Brothers," was the most important characteristic. During the 1950s Al oscillated with consistent success between the commercial and jazz worlds, writing many arrangements for major TV shows such as the Hit Parade, but maintaining his identity as a jazz soloist by working with Benny Goodman and various combos and bands on a temporary basis.
John Haley "Zoot" Sims is exactly twenty-six days older than Al. Born in Inglewood, California, he too studied clarinet in school but was self-taught on tenor. After working briefly with West Coast bands he came to the attention of New York listeners during a couple of visits with Goodman in the mid-1940s, and with a sextet led by Bill Harris at Cafe Society. Zoot joined the Herman band when Woody was reorganizing in California in the fall of 1947 and remained with him until '49. The '50s found him on a variety of gigs on the West Coast (he toured for a while with Stan Kenton in '53) and on the East Coast and in Europe with both Benny Goodman and Gerry Mulligan (he was heard on EmArcy while with Gerry).
Asked to name their preferences on tenor sax, Al and Zoot invariably name one another but acknowledge the primary influence of tester Young and express their continuing admiration for Sonny Stitt. Though to the casual listener the Young influence seems strong in both, protracted hearings make it evident that Al and Zoot have spread out in slightly different directions despite their common inspiration. Al's slightly fuller and rounder tone, Zoot's more attenuated sound and oblique approach can be discerned as their most distinctive traits.
Fans of Al and Zoot around New York City need hardly be told that many of their happiest months during the past couple of years have been spent at the Half Note, a relaxed and informal spot southwest of Greenwich Village. Bassist Major Holley, who was with them at "the Note" when these sides were taped, will be remembered by some fans as a former Oscar Peterson Trio member; during the '50s he was off the scene for quite a while, living and working in England. Pianist Mose Allison, the Mississippi product with the Minton touch, has been in New York for four years, working with small combos, and was also with Al and Zoot at the Half Note at the time of this session. Osie Johnson, too busy nowadays to tie himself down to a nightclub job, is New York's most dependable and popular freelance drummer. Shortly after the Al-Zoot date he went on staff with Dick Hyman's swinging little band on Arthur Godfrey's daily CBS program.
Stereo listeners will hear Al on the right channel, Zoot on the left. Following are the solo credits: "The Note," an Al Cohn original in which unison and two-part lines are ingeniously interwoven, has Al on the first two blowing choruses, Zoot on the next two.
"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" has Zoot playing the lead on the opening chorus for the first sixteen bars, Al taking over for the rest. Solo choruses: Zoot, Al, Mose, Major; then Zoot and Al in fours for sixteen, then Al melody and Zoot obbligato.
"You 'n' Me": two choruses Al, two Zoot, one Mose, then Al and Zoot (in that order) trading fours with Osie.
"On the Alamo": Al plays theme, Zoot fills. Solo choruses are by Zoot, Al, Mose and Major splitting one; then a half-chorus of fours starting with Zoot.
"The Opener" was written by a welcome visitor to the session, the distinguished composer-arranger from Washington, Bill Potts. Based on the 16-bar format, it features three of the short choruses by Al, then three by Zoot. After Mose's solo Al and Zoot help themselves to a couple of fours with Osie; then the ensemble returns, swinging gently out on the softer final chorus.
"Angel Eyes" is a gas! Major Holley is introduced here as a jazz-with-humorous-over-tones find of major proportions. Of his amazing solo on this Matt Dennis standard one observer in the studio remarked: "This cat starts where Slam Stewart left off!" Important note: Major's vocal-with-bowed-bass is straight unison, not octave unison. To fill out the background Major also played, by overdubbing, a regular pizzicato rhythm section part, so that the listener doesn't get that bottomless sensation often created by a long bass solo. Al and Zoot play a discreet background on clarinets while Major bows.
"Awful Lonely," a pretty George Handy composition, opens with Al in the lead. The second chorus is split between Al and Zoot. The wistful mood of this performance is especially effective when Al and Zoot engage in the interplay heard on the release of the ensemble chorus.
"Love for Sale," after Zoot has led on the melody chorus, also gives him the first solo. Al and Mose have one each; Zoot leads the fours that follow, then Al takes over the melody and Zoot carries it for the last few measures.
"Improvisation for Unaccompanied Saxophones" is, as the title implies, a most unusual track - something Al and Zoot had never tried before on records. When I suggested that we experiment with the idea of having the two of them demonstrate their ability to swing without any accompaniment, Al surprised me by replying that he and Zoot had a little routine along those lines which they'd played occasionally for their own amusement. How this worked out, and who plays what when, is better heard than explained: All I can add is that if there was ever evidence needed that men like Cohn and Sims have an innate facility for swinging, this proves it conclusively. It's a unique ending to what is, I believe (and the opinion is shared by Al and Zoot themselves), the best album to date by the Damon and Pythias of the tenors.
- Leonard Feather (original liner notes)