In the traits of tone and phrasing tenor icons Zoot and Jaws were hardly doppelgangers. Jaws of the clipped rasp and pinched carving wail and Zoot with the more effusive, easygoing sound- the two together made for instant and compelling contrast in terms of both philosophy and execution. The common ground the pair shared was in the terrain of no-nonsense hard driving swing and a willingness to vigorously pull out the stops when the chance presented itself. Convening under the concert tour umbrella of Norman Granz for a string of dates through Western Europe the duo was no doubt encouraged to focus their chops on crowd-pleasing blowing. Judging from the collected performances on this recent Pablo compilation, both men were more than happy to oblige their employer’s proclivity for flashy showmanship.
The disc opens with a trio of selections from a concert in Sweden that form a nice prefatory capsule of the quintet’s dynamics. A ripping version of “The Man I Love” replete with raucous solos from both men gives way to two solo features, “My Old Flame,” which falls under Sims’ jurisdiction and “Don’t Worry About Me” surfacing within the province of Davis’ heavy breathing horn. Two more from Stuttgart follow starting with another up-tempo sally, this time through the ripe changes of “There Will Never Be Another You, which gains momentum and veracity with each succeeding chorus before culminating in a fiery close. Conversely “A Ghost of a Chance” shows off the high quality ballad credentials of the group with first Sims, and then Davis wielding an extra heavy helping of rasp, waxing romantic above Peterson’s lush chording and Bellson’s whisper soft brushes.
Representatives from stops in Belgium, Geneva and Paris round out the travelogue showcasing not only the horns, but the rhythm section as well. Pederson plucks the strings front and center on “Tangerine” while Bellson’s turn comes on the closing “Groovin’ High” where he generates a veritable wall of percussive force through a fusillade of martial press rolls that predictably sets the audience whooping and whistling. Considering the instrumentation of this touring group comparisons are perhaps inevitable to Davis’ earlier tenor tandem with Johnny Griffin. But Sims and Davis hatch upon a decidedly different dynamic with the program of standards and the particular rhythm section in tow. Suffice it to say that fans of any or all of these players won’t be sorry handing over hard-earned cash for aural admittance to these historic dates.