Sonny Simmons

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Sonny Simmons
Sonny Simmons.jpg
Sonny Simmons
Photo: Matt Brown
Background information
Birth name Huey Simmons
Born (1933-08-04) August 4, 1933 (age 82)
Sicily Island, LA, USA
Origin Oakland, CA, USA
Genres Jazz, Free jazz
Instruments Alto saxophone, English horn
Labels Contemporary Records, ESP-Disk, Arhoolie Records, Qwest Records, CIMP, Marge Records, Boxholder, Jazzaway, Improvising Beings

Huey "Sonny" Simmons (b. August 4, 1933, Sicily Island, Louisiana) is an American jazz musician.[1]


Simmons grew up in Oakland, California, where he began playing the English horn (Simmons and Vinny Golia are among the few musicians to play the instrument in a jazz context). At age 16 he took up the alto saxophone, which became his primary instrument. Simmons plays primarily in an avant-garde style, often delving into free jazz.

His then wife Barbara Donald, played trumpet on several of his early records, including his ESP-Disk titles Staying on the Watch and Music From the Spheres; Arhoolie Manhattan Egos, and Contemporary titles Rumasuma and the double album Burning Spirits.

Simmons also partnered with Prince Lasha on several recordings, two of which – The Cry! (1963) and Firebirds (1968) – were released by Contemporary during the 1960s.

Personal problems derailed both his music career and home life, leading to divorce and homelessness. He busked on the streets of San Francisco for many years, until he resurrected his career in the early 1990s and began playing in night clubs again.

His resurgence in the mid-1990s was marked by two albums, Ancient Ritual and American Jungle, for Quincy Jones' Qwest Records, along with appearances in notable European jazz festivals such as the Moers Festival and Saalfelden Jazz Festival. He has since remained a regular performer at European festivals.

Since 2000 he is co-leader of The Cosmosamatics with reed player Michael Marcus.


As leader[edit]

With The Cosmosamatics

  • Reeds & Birds (Not Two, 2004)
  • Free Within the Law (Not Two, 2007)
  • Jazz Maalika (Saptakjazz, 2013)

With Moksha Samnyasin

As sideman[edit]

With Prince Lasha

With Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison

With Eric Dolphy


External links[edit]