Zoot Sims

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Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims 1976.jpg
52nd Street Jazz Fair, New York City, July 6, 1976
Background information
Birth name John Haley Sims
Born (1925-10-29)October 29, 1925
Inglewood, California, U.S.
Died March 23, 1985(1985-03-23) (aged 59)
New York City
Genres Jazz, big band, cool jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1944–85
Labels Pablo, Verve, Epic, Mercury
Associated acts Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Al Cohn, Gerry Mulligan

John Haley "Zoot" Sims (October 29, 1925 – March 23, 1985) was an American jazz saxophonist, playing mainly tenor but also alto and later soprano saxophone.[1] He first gained attention in the "Four Brothers" sax section of Woody Herman's big band, after which he went on to a long solo career, often in partnership with fellow saxmen Gerry Mulligan and Al Cohn or the trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.



Sims was born in Inglewood, California, the son of vaudeville performers Kate Haley and John Sims.[2] His father was a vaudeville hoofer, and Sims prided himself on remembering many of the steps his father taught him. Growing up in a performing family, he learned to play drums and clarinet at an early age. His brother was the trombonist Ray Sims.[3]

Following in the footsteps of Lester Young, Sims developed into an innovative tenor saxophonist. Throughout his career, he played with big bands, starting with those of Kenny Baker and Bobby Sherwood after dropping out of high school after one year. He played with Benny Goodman's band in 1943 and replaced his idol Ben Webster in Sid Catlett's Quartet in 1944.[4][5]

Sims served as a corporal in the United States Army Air Force from 1944 to 1946,[5][6] then returned to music in the bands of Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton, and Buddy Rich. He was one of Woody Herman's "Four Brothers". He frequently led his own combos and toured with his friend Gerry Mulligan's sextet, and later with Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band. Sims rejoined Goodman in 1962 for a tour of the Soviet Union.[5]

In the 1950s and '60s, Sims had a long, successful partnership as co-leader of a quintet with Al Cohn, which recorded under the name "Al and Zoot". The group was a favorite at New York City's Half Note Club. Always fond of the higher register of the tenor sax, he also played alto and late in his career added soprano saxophone to his performances, while recording a series of albums for the Pablo Records label of the impresario Norman Granz. He also played on some of Jack Kerouac's recordings.[citation needed].

Sims acquired the nickname "Zoot" early in his career while he was in the Kenny Baker band in California.[citation needed]. The name was later appropriated for a sax-playing Muppet.

Sims played a 30-second solo on the song "Poetry Man," written by singer Phoebe Snow on her debut eponymous album in 1975.[citation needed].

Zoot Sims died in New York City of cancer on March 23, 1985,[4] and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Nyack, New York.[6]


Sims at Keystone Korner, San Francisco, California, 1983






  • 1976: Zoot Sims With Bucky Pizzarelli (Classic Jazz) with Bucky Pizzarelli - also released as Summon
  • 1976: Soprano Sax (Pablo) with Ray Bryant and George Mraz
  • 1976: Hawthorne Nights (Pablo)
  • 1977: If I'm Lucky (Pablo) with Jimmy Rowles
  • 1978: For Lady Day (Pablo)
  • 1978: Just Friends (Pablo) with Sweets Edison
  • 1978: Zoot Sims in Copenhagen (Storyville)
  • 1979: The Sweetest Sounds (Sonet Gramofon) with Rune Gustafsson
  • 1979: The Swinger (Pablo)
  • 1979: Warm Tenor (Pablo) with Jimmy Rowles


  • 1981: I Wish I Were Twins (Pablo) with Jimmy Rowles
  • 1981 [1995]: Art 'n' Zoot (Pablo) with Art Pepper
  • 1982: Blues for Two (Pablo) with Joe Pass
  • 1982: The Innocent Years (Pablo) with Richard Wyands and Frank Tate
  • 1983: Suddenly It's Spring (Pablo) with Akira Tana
  • 1984; Quietly There: Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel (Fantasy)
  • 1985: The Best of Zoot Sims (Pablo)
  • 2002: Joe & Zoot & More (Chiaroscuro) with Joe Venuti and Bucky Pizzarelli - expanded reissue of Joe & Zoot
  • 2003: Somebody Loves Me (Lester Recording Catalog) reissue, some of this was released at the time as Nirvana)

As sideman[edit]

With Pepper Adams[edit]

With Trigger Alpert[edit]

With Chet Baker[edit]

With Count Basie[edit]

With Louis Bellson[edit]

With Clifford Brown[edit]

  • 1954: Jazz Immortal (Pacific Jazz)

With Ray Charles[edit]

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band[edit]

With Al Cohn[edit]

With Chris Connor[edit]

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Oscar Peterson[edit]

With Miles Davis[edit]

  • 1953: Plays Al Cohn Compositions (Miles Davis and Horns CD) (Prestige)

With Kenny Dorham[edit]

  • 1961: Hot Stuff From Brazil (West Wind) released in 1990

With Jon Eardley[edit]

  • 1956: The Jon Eardley Seven (Prestige), reissued in 1965 as Zoot Sims Koo Koo (Status)

With Booker Ervin[edit]

With Bill Evans[edit]

With Art Farmer[edit]

With Curtis Fuller[edit]

With Bobby Hackett

With Coleman Hawkins[edit]

With Woody Herman[edit]

  • 1959: New Big Herd At The Monterey Jazz Festival (released 1960 Atlantic)

With Chubby Jackson[edit]

  • 1950: All Star Big Band (Prestige)

With Quincy Jones[edit]

With Stan Kenton[edit]

With Jack Kerouac[edit]

With Irene Kral[edit]

With Elliot Lawrence[edit]

  • 1957: Big Band Modern (Jazztone)

With Michel Legrand[edit]

  • 1982: After The Rain (Pablo)

With Stan Levey and Red Mitchell[edit]

  • 1954-1955: West Coast Rhythm (Affinity) released 1982

With The Manhattan Transfer[edit]

With Gary McFarland[edit]

With Ted McNabb[edit]

  • 1959: Big Band Swing (Epic)

With Carmen McRae[edit]

With the Metronome All-Stars[edit]

With Charles Mingus[edit]

With Red Mitchell[edit]

  • 1955: Happy Minors (Bethlehem)

With Jack Montrose[edit]

With Gerry Mulligan[edit]

With Oliver Nelson[edit]

With Anita O'Day[edit]

With Buddy Rich and Lionel Hampton[edit]

With Shorty Rogers[edit]

With Jimmy Rushing[edit]

  • 1971: The You And Me That Used To Be (RCA)

With Lalo Schifrin and Bob Brookmeyer[edit]

With Johnny Smith[edit]

With Phoebe Snow[edit]

With Sonny Stitt[edit]

With Clark Terry[edit]

  • 1979: Mother! Mother! (Pablo)

With Sarah Vaughan[edit]

With Joe Venuti[edit]

  • 1974: The Joe Venuti Blue Four (Chiaroscuro)

With Joe Williams[edit]

  • 1963: At Newport '63 (RCA Victor)
  • 1989: Having The Blues Under European Sky (Lester Recording Catalog) recorded live in the 1970s


  1. ^ "Zoot Sims". All About Jazz. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived October 26, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Levinson, Peter J. (2005). September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle. Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 140.
  4. ^ a b Folkart, Burt A. "Saxophonist John Haley (Zoot) Sims Dies at 59". Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1985. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Lankford, Ronald D., Jr. Zoot Sims Biography. musicianguide.com. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Zoot Sims at Find a Grave
  7. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Zoot-Sims-avec-Henri-Renaud-et-son-orchestre-et-Jon-Eardley/release/6430437

External links[edit]