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Sonny Simmons

By Published: July 24, 2004
SS: It's not going too well; the Cosmosamatics and the Millennium Group (which is a new group) are not with a major label, they're on little outhouse labels with no distribution in Europe, and people don't know anything about it. They know me, but they don't know Michael Marcus and haven't heard of the Cosmosamatics. The group never got off the ground, and we're still trying and still struggling, but it's not enough to take care of the rent. Hopefully it will change this year, maybe, but I'll still be dealing with the music on my terms. I ain't going to play noise, no bullshit, and I'm not a kiss-up kind of guy. Fifty years is a long time [to be doing it], that's half a century!

AAJ: I know you're in New York for the time being, but is there anywhere you think would be more fruitful, or would it be the same anywhere you go?

SS: It's not the same in Europe for me. I'm recognized and respected much more in Europe as an artist, but I'll be working [in New York] for the first time in a couple of years with the Millennium. I met a beautiful lady, she's in show-business and is a great pianist and a composer, and we're living together and I'm satisfied with that, so we're just trying to make it happen. Her name is Janet Jenke, and she's also having a hard time with her own art, but she's very gifted too.

AAJ: Well, New York is cutthroat, especially these days.

SS: It's a goddamn battlefield now, nothing like it was back in the Golden Era, the 60s and 70s. It's nothing like that, when all the cats were alive. I'm one of the few buffalo that's left from that era. Ornette's still alive, and he's doing great.

AAJ: He's really able to control how his music is presented and how he's presented.

SS: He's got clout after forty years; I never did get a grip because of the way my family life was. I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't leave my kids. That was my weakness.

AAJ: It's something that garners a lot of respect, though, because it was exactly the right thing as much as it was the wrong thing.

SS: Right, and I may still be paying for it, but I ain't crying about it. I'm glad to be alive and situated with this great lady who knows the score. I'm not going to rock the boat' There was a strong rumor in the 80s that I was dead, and that affected my career worldwide because a lot of people thought I was gone, and they were just false rumors - maybe somebody wished I was dead!

Sonny Simmons will be at the Jazz Standard July 9-11, see calendar for details. Thanks to the staff at AAJ-NY and Sonny Simmons for making this interview possible.

Recommended Listening:

Sonny Simmons/Prince Lasha "The Cry" (Contemporary, 1962)

Eric Dolphy "Conversations" (FM, 1963)

Sonny Simmons "Music from the Spheres" (ESP, 1966/1968)

Prince Lasha/Sonny Simmons "Firebirds" (Contemporary, 1967)

Sonny (Huey) Simmons "Burning Spirits" (Contemporary, 1970)

Sonny Simmons "Ancient Ritual" (Qwest/Warner Bros., 1995)

Cosmosamatics "Cosmosamatics" (Boxhholder, 2001)

Cosmosamatics "Three" (Boxholder, 2004)

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