Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

515

Zoot Sims with the Joe Castro Trio: Live at Falcon Lair

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
This loose-limbed rendezvous sounds exactly as it was, an impromptu late-night jam session planned on the fly in someone’s apartment—in this case, however, no ordinary apartment but “The Playhouse,” a spacious second-story room above a garage and adjacent to the main house at Falcon Lair, the imposing Beverly Hills estate then owned by tobacco heiress Doris Duke and previously occupied by legendary silent film star Rudolph Valentino. Pianist Joe Castro, who was married to Duke from 1956-64, liked to invite his friends over for unrehearsed get-togethers, and one frequent guest who would blow anytime, day or night, at the drop of a downbeat was the irrepressible Zoot Sims.

An unusual aspect of this particular session is that Zoot brought only his alto sax, not the tenor for which he is much better known. Not to worry; if he hadn’t been such a great tenor stylist, Zoot would certainly have been numbered among the best alto players of his day. Strangely, after playing alto for a couple of years in the mid-'50s he packed up the horn and seldom played it again. And as far as anyone knows, he never said why (he did play soprano sax in later years). As Zoot never recorded on alto with only a rhythm section, this album is, in that respect at least, historic.

Castro, who thought he might be able to interest record companies in some of the sessions (Stan Getz was another regular visitor), generally had his Telefunken microphones plugged in and Ampex quarter-inch tape recorder running. Considering the source, the sound quality is quite good, the overall balance evenhanded with Castro, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Ron Jefferson clearly defined. Zoot also comes through loud and clear, complementing but never overshadowing the trio.

Musically, the group doesn’t stray far from familiar territory, renovating five standards and a trio of undemanding Castro originals including two blues. There are one or two awkward moments when everyone is searching for the proper groove and tempo, but they are of little consequence in a session that swings as hard and consistently as this one, thanks mainly to Zoot’s inability to do anything less, regardless of time, place or crewmates—which is not meant to suggest that the supporting cast, especially bassist Vinnegar, is less than admirable.

“Zoot was a joy, a groove to be with,” says Castro, who has lived in Las Vegas since 1980 and still jams at home whenever he can. “He was a wonderful guy, unpretentious, and played his ass off”—on alto as well as tenor, as Castro’s Ampex bears witness. We’ll not see his like again, and Live at Falcon Lair documents one of those occasions when Zoot was happiest—relaxed, swinging, and clearly having great fun deconstructing and reassembling musical scores and swapping ideas with like-minded companions.


Track Listing: A Night in Tunisia; Pennies from Heaven; I

Personnel: Zoot Sims, alto saxophone; Joe Castro, piano; Leroy Vinnegar, bass; Ron Jefferson, drums.

Title: Live At Falcon Lair | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Swinging In The Holidays CD/LP/Track Review Swinging In The Holidays
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Cycles of Animation CD/LP/Track Review Cycles of Animation
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Secret Passages CD/LP/Track Review Secret Passages
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Live At The Magic Triangle CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Magic Triangle
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Music in the Room CD/LP/Track Review Music in the Room
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 10, 2017
Read Of Light and Shadows CD/LP/Track Review Of Light and Shadows
by Phillip Woolever
Published: December 9, 2017
Read "To the Bone" CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by John Kelman
Published: August 26, 2017
Read "Stage 'N Studio" CD/LP/Track Review Stage 'N Studio
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Quiet Life" CD/LP/Track Review Quiet Life
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 5, 2017
Read "Mata Hati" CD/LP/Track Review Mata Hati
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "What Time Is It?" CD/LP/Track Review What Time Is It?
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "The Hive" CD/LP/Track Review The Hive
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 28, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!