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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Staying on the Watch

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The sixties were a time of turmoil and invention. Jazz was cast into several shapes by musicians who were willing to take chances, were not afraid to go against the grain, and believed in their vision to fathom and articulate new territory. Alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons was among those who added to lore. He could fathom a cry of anguish just as easily as he could herald a shout of joy, as he created an ambience that spread its wings to encompass melody and lyricism. This balance is seen to advantage on Staying on the Watch, his first record as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Staying on the Watch

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Alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons embraces music with his whole body, soul, mind and spirit; that much is clear from Staying on the Watch, recorded in August 1966 and reissued by ESP-Disk in 2010. Not everything that he did got its due: when Simmons came on the scene, he remained too close to Charlie Parker. When he discovered his own brooding voice with that characteristic, sharp intonation that made his alto sound almost like a shenai (Indian flute), he floated on a seemingly endless wave of music that was ancient yet modern. Simmons has always stood in the future to look ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Vision Festival 2008: Day 4

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Steve Swell-Gebhard Ullmann Quartet; Bobby Few and Sonny Simmons; Henry Grimes with Sabir Mateen Quartet; Connie Crother; Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quintet

13th Annual Vision Festival Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center New York City Friday, June 13, 2008

For the second of the week's panel discussions on Friday afternoon at the Vision Festival, the topic was “Jazz Factions," with representation drawn from across the creative music spectrum, including several musicians in the audience. ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Sonny Simmons: Last Man Standing; Introducing Black Jack Pleasanton & Fourth Dimension

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Sonny Simmons Last Man Standing Jazzaway 2008 Sonny Simmons Introducing Black Jack Pleasanton Hello World 2008 Sonny Simmons Fourth Dimension Hello World 2008

Sonny Simmons will turn 75 this year and the range of musical knowledge and influence heard in his playing suggest multitudes beyond the “free" label he usually carries. Dating back to his debut on ESP in the mid '60s, Simmons ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Last Man Standing

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This is the latest in a series of albums under saxophonist Sonny Simmons' name put out by the Norwegian Jazzaway label; a further instalment in the documentation of an abundantly creative artist, but one who only relatively recently has started to receive the kind of exposure he deserves.

The setting here is a straight-ahead one and Simmons thrives in it. In the company of a rhythm section that does everything a listener might ask of it, and a whole lot more besides, Simmons puts himself across in a program consisting of his original compositions and Tadd Dameron's “Theme For Ernie," ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Live at the Cheshire Cat

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In 1980, legendary altoist Sonny Simmons was at his lowest point. Describing himself as “shipwrecked when the gigs dried up and the money ran out, Simmons followed his wife and frequent collaborator, trumpeter Barbara Donald, from San Francisco to Olympia, Washington, with the hope that the change of scene would revitalize their tenuous marriage and put their family on firmer ground. He lasted six weeks up there and disc one of these newly released concerts captures Simmons a world away from his home turf in those weeks before he was to return, fronting a trap drummer (thought to be personal ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings; The Traveller

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Sonny Simmons The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings ESP-Disk 2005

Clifford Allen's informative and revealing interview with Sonny Simmons, included with ESP's two-disc reissue of Simmons' first efforts as a leader (Staying on the Watch and Music From the Spheres) clears up much of what happened to the master alto saxophonist between the time these sessions were cut in 1966 and his re-emergence in the '90s. Simmons' inability to conform to the demands of the marketplace, along with family pressures and a pressing need to put food on the table, drove him away from ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: The Traveller

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Even at 72, the great Sonny Simmons still comes up with the unexpected. On The Traveller, the veteran musician nestles into beautiful compositions and arrangements by Vidar Johansen with a group augmented by an elite string quartet from the Oslo Philharmonic. Johansen surrounds Simmons in strong, open charts that create taut frameworks for improvisational weaving. The melodically driven program spotlights Simmons' gift for spontaneous lyricism.

The string quartet introduces itself on “Humphrey with stark figures melting in the fire of Simmons' English horn. After a brief melding of the quartets, Simmons' signature alto leaps into action, gracefully vining through with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: The Traveller

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Every time a new Sonny Simmons record is released, reviewers encourage listeners to wake up to this shadowy figure. Simmons has always been a guy hovering behind the glory. In the '60s he seemed a footnote to Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, and listeners bought Ayler on ESP before Simmons. His rediscovery in the late '80s was again a back page story to Ornette Coleman's return.

Well, Simmons is back again.

The Swedish label Jazzaway has produced three new sessions, the first of which is The Traveller. With music composed by conductor Vidar Johansen and a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Jewels

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Sonny Simmons arrived as a performer over forty years ago. He's not the last man to tell you he hasn't had his due, following bad times on the old “young man with a horn" stereotype. As with Mark Twain, “reports of his death were... exaggerated," but they did Simmons harm. The good news of his being back was preceded by grim times away.

Simmons' past partner, flautist Prince Lasha, should be listed as co-composer of “Music Matador," a dancing Spanish theme both men recorded with Eric Dolphy a year before Dolphy's tragic death. Simmons remains a master of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Jewels

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Inspired by the works of Charlie Parker, Vincent Van Gogh, Sigurd Rasher, and Eric Dolphy, saxophonist Sonny Simmons recorded Jewels at a California home in 1991.

Simmons' best-known composition, “Music Matador,"? initiates the recording. It was originally featured on an Eric Dolphy recording, and in a recent AAJ interview Simmons affirms that it is his, rather than a co-composition with Prince Lasha, as commonly credited. Other musicians, including Jane Bunnett and Paul Bley, have recorded it since Dolphy did, accompanied at the time, among others, by Lasha and Simmons himself. Denuded of any technical enhancements or musical support, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Jewels

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Solo saxophone recordings (and, for that matter, solo recordings in general) offer more than just a glimpse into the process of self-composing, of testing material and approaches to sound as well as getting into the nature of the instrument. Though it lacks the sparring that begets improvisation (for that reason, Derek Bailey prefers to call it “solo playing"), unaccompanied work offers its own kind of spontaneity and thrill. Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, and Joe McPhee have contributed greatly to the development of a solo saxophone lineage, in such a way that their respective bodies of solo work are distinct entities. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Simmons: Jewels

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Note to self (that's you): find the long out-of-print CD Ancient Ritual (Qwest, 1992) by the Sonny Simmons trio. That disc marked his first great comeback, this disc his second. Well, sort of.

Not that Sonny Simmons went anywhere. It is just that gaps in his recording career wipe him from our collective radar. He first appeared in the '60s and '70s with avant recordings on ESP and Arhoolie (recently reissued), then the silence until his return in the early 1990s. Recently he has been working in The Cosmosamatics with saxophonist Michael Marcus. His music begins with Charlie ...

GENERAL ARTICLES

Re: Sonny Simmons (July issue no.27, pg.34)

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For too long I have read Sonny Simmons' disingenuous remarks (see interview ) about the labels that go to bat for him and offer an uncompromised canvas for his artistry. In the July issue ( AllAboutJazz-New York , pg.34), he refers to his current labels as “little outhouse labels with no distribution in Europe." I am familiar with those labels (i.e. since 2002: Boxholder, BleuRegard, Arhoolie, Marge)and they are not outhouse labels. And they do have availability in Europe as well as Japan, etc. In the past, I have been on the receiving end of Mr. Simmons' lies, distortions, and ...



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