The story of the resurrection of saxophonist Sonny Simmons has been told and retold many times. Needless to say, his comeback recording Ancient Ritual
in 1994 rekindled interest in his brand of Coltrane meets Ornette and Ayler music. Since then, he has recorded for the specialty jazz label CIMP and a nifty outward session The Cosmosamatics
with James Carter, Michael Marcus, and William Parker
In 2000, Arhoolie music re-issued a long out-of-print live 1969 album Manhattan Egos to fill in a curious gap in the Simmons story.
This time Arhoolie found Mr. Simmons in Paris, live in a recent concert. Audiophiles beware; the recording has a rough bootleg feel with the audience talking through some solos and the overall feel of a Dean Benedetti recording.
Roughness issues aside, Simmons comes across with plenty of vigor here. He seems to be taking a retrospective glance at jazz and his career. He opts for bebop classics by Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Coltrane’s most requested cover song “My Favorite Things.”
The urgency of his playing dates back to his ESP session in the 1960s and work with Eric Dolphy. Indeed Dolphy’s spirit and that of Ornette Coleman is embodied in the great man’s horn. He opens up his playing and the breadth of his solos on his own compositions. With the assistance of the remarkable bassist Jacques Avenel, best known for his work with Steve Lacy, and drummer George Brown (Gene Ammons, Archie Shepp) Simmons tears into the music on the aptly entitled “Ghost From The Golden Era.”
The unintentional bootleg sound actually focuses the listener on the music. You strive to ignore the loud couple in the next booth and dedicate yourself to Simmons. Seems they ignore genius in France just as rudely as they do stateside.
Personnel: Sonny Simmons – Alto Saxophone, English Horn; Jacques Avenel – Bass; George Brown – Drums