Warm, Yet Cool


Warm Tenor (Pablo, 1996) is, so far as I know, the first Zoot Sims music I’ve ever listened to. I’ve been around enough to know that this title is a great description of Sims’ saxophone sound, because his sound is often measured by Stan Getz’s -- which I do like -- and so I looked forward to digging some Zoot.

A 1978 quartet date of textbook, classic mainstream jazz, Zoot’s Warm Tenor proved worth waiting for. Sims never once blows you over like a hurricane. His tenor falls languid and steady and soft like a misty spring rain while bass (George Mraz) and piano (Jimmy Rowles, who also played with Getz) whisper and hiss beside him.

Sims and Mraz whiz alone and in tandem through their duet “Blues for Louise,” while Rowles wraps up Sims’ tenor in every slippery thread of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” The foursome paints “Comes Love” with a colorful and bright uptempo Latin tint. Other tunes pour out more slow and mellow: “Old Devil Moon” and Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing” sound like they were dunked in honey, they flow so thick and sweet.

Sims’ Pablo recordings are recognized as a highlight of his long and elegant career. Other Pablo titles include the Sims, Rowles and Mraz reunions For Lady Day (1990) and on Suddenly It’s Spring (1992); Sims’ duet with guitarist Joe Pass, Blues For Two (1990); and Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel: Quietly There (1990).