When Zoot Sims was “on” there were few saxophonists who could equal his seemingly effortless solos. He played with a rich bluesy tone that epitomized graceful, modern swing. Recorded in 1973, Zoot At Ease caught Zoot Sims at his best. But that’s not all: add a consistently inspired Hank Jones on piano, Milt Hinton on bass, and either Louis Bellson or Grady Tate on drums, and you have one helluva swinging band and one of the great Sims performances on record.
Hank Jones demonstrates cut after cut why he has been such a sought after pianist over the years. His low-key solos are dramatic and incisive, his comping spare and intensely intelligent. This recording is not only great Sims but also Hank Jones at his very best.
But that’s not all, Milt Hinton, who can usually be depended on to be an understated highlight of any recording outdoes himself on this one. His full-bodied, deeply empathetic bass lines intertwine with Jones’ and Sims’ in an extraordinary dialog throughout. His duet work with Sims on “Do Nothin ‘Till You Hear From Me” is a highlight of the album. Both Bellson and Tate are, well, Bellson and Tate which means masters of their instruments. Take a careful listen to Bellson on “Rosemary’s Baby” or to Tate on “Beach In The A.M.” and you’ll get an idea of what a truly artistic drummer can do for a band.
Whether Sims plays tenor sax or soprano sax, he reels off seamless chorus after chorus at a level that places him among the outstanding musicians of both instruments. All the evidence is here: Zoot could be “at ease” or he could be on fire. This recording catches the whole emotional range and the astounding virtuosity of the mighty Mr. Sims. Highly recommended.
Tracks:Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; In The Middle Of A Kiss; Alabamy Home; Do Nothin; Till You Hear From Me; Rosemary’s Baby; Cocktails For Two; My Funny Valentine; Beach In The A.M.
Personnel: Zoot Sims, tenor and soprano saxophones; Hank Jones, piano; Milt Hinton, bass; Louis Bellson or Grady Tate, drums.