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Zoot Sims

Zoot Sims

Jazz musician
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Saxophonist Jazz musician
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth October 29, 1925 (Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.A.)
Death March 23, 1985 (New York City, New York, U.S.A.)
The details

John Haley "Zoot" Sims (October 29, 1925 – March 23, 1985) was an American jazz saxophonist, playing mainly tenor but also alto and later soprano. He first gained attention in the "Four Brothers" sax section of Woody Herman's big band, after which 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. 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.

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.

Sims served as a corporal in the United States Army Air Force from 1944 to 1946, 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.

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..

Sims acquired the nickname "Zoot" early in his career while he was in the Kenny Baker band in California.. 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..

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


Sims at Keystone Korner, San Francisco, California, 1983
  • The Brothers, with Stan Getz and Al Cohn (Prestige, 1949)
  • Quartet In Paris (Discovery, 1950)
  • Zoot Sims Quartets, 1950–1951 recordings (Swinging with Zoot, Tenor Sax Favorites) (Prestige/OJC)
  • Zoot Sims All Stars, with Kai Winding, Al Cohn George Wallington Percy Heath, and Art Blakey (Prestige, 1953)
  • Zoot Sims Quintet Stu Williamson (Prestige, 1954); reissued as most of Good Old Zoot, 12-inch LP (New Jazz, 1962; Status, 1965)
  • The Modern Art of Jazz by Zoot Sims (Dawn, 1956)
  • From A to...Z, with Al Cohn (RCA Victor, 1956)
  • Tonite's Music Today, with Bob Brookmeyer (Storyville, 1956)
  • Whooeeee, with Bob Brookmeyer (Storyville, 1956)
  • Zoot Sims – with Henri Renaud and Jon Eardley (Ducretet-Thomson, 1956) Americans Swinging In Paris CD
  • Zoot!,with Nick Travis (Riverside 1956)
  • Tenor Conclave, with John Coltrane, Al Cohn, Hank Mobley, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor (Prestige, 1956)
  • Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims, with Jutta Hipp (Blue Note, 1955; two 12-inch volumes, 1956)
  • Goes to Jazzville, with Jerry Lloyd, John Williams, Knoby Tohah, and Bill Anthony (Dawn, 1956)
  • Live at Falcon Lair with Joe Castro (1956)
  • That Old Feeling, double-issue CD of two 1956 albums (Bohemia After Dark and Zoot Sims Plays Alto, Tenor, and Baritone)
  • Hoagy Carmichael Sessions and More, with Nick Travis and Milt Hinton (1957)
  • The Four Brothers... Together Again!, with Serge Chaloff and Herbie Steward (Vik, 1957)
  • Al and Zoot (Coral, 1957)
  • Locking Horns, with Joe Newman (Rama, 1957)
  • Stretching Out, with Bob Brookmeyer (United Artists, 1958)
  • Jazz Alive! A Night at the Half Note, with Al Cohn and Phil Woods (United Artists, 1959)
  • Either Way, with Al Cohn, Cecil Colier, Bill Crow, and Mose Allison (1959–60)
  • You 'n' Me, with Al Cohn (Mercury, 1960)
  • Down Home, with Dave McKenna and George Tucker (Bethlehem, 1960)
  • At the Half Note Again, with Al Cohn, Ricie Kamuca (on some tracks), Roger Kellaway, and Mel Lewis (Bootleg, 1965)
  • New Beat Bossa Nova (Colpix, 1962)
  • New Beat Bossa Nova Vol. 2 (Colpix, 1962)
  • Zoot at Ronnie Scott's (1962)
  • Solo for Zoot (1962)
  • Two Jims and Zoot, with Jimmy Raney and Jim Hall (Mainstream, 1964)
  • Inter-Action, with Sonny Stitt (Cadet, 1965)
  • Suitably Zoot (Pumpkin, 1965 [1979])
  • Al and Zoot in London (1965)
  • Waiting Game (Impulse!, 1966)
  • The Greatest Jazz Concert in the World (Pablo, 1967)
  • Easy as Pie Live at the West Bank with Al Cohn
  • Body and Soul, with Jaki Byard and George Duvivier (Muse, 1973)
  • Zoot Suite, with Jimmy Rowles, George Mraz, Mousey Alexander (1973)
  • Joe & Zoot & More, with Joe Venuti and Bucky Pizzarelli (1973)
  • Zootcase 1950-1954 (two LPs, Prestige, 1975)
  • Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers, with Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass (Pablo, 1975)
  • Basie & Zoot (1975)
  • Motoring Along (1975)
  • Soprano Sax, with Ray Bryant and George Mraz (1976)
  • Hawthorne Nights (Pablo, 1976)
  • Somebody Loves Me (reissue, some of this was released at the time as Nirvana)
  • If I'm Lucky, with Jimmy Rowles (Pablo, 1977)
  • For Lady Day (Pablo, 1978)
  • Just Friends, with Sweets Edison (Pablo, 1978)
  • Zoot Sims in Copenhagen (Storyville, 1978)
  • The Swinger (Pablo, 1979)
  • I Wish I Were Twins, with Jimmy Rowles (Pablo, 1981)
  • Art 'n' Zoot, with Art Pepper (Pablo, 1981 [1995])
  • Blues for Two, with Joe Pass (Pablo, 1982)
  • The Innocent Years, with Richard Wyands and Frank Tate (Pablo, 1982)
  • Suddenly It's Spring, with Akira Tana (Pablo, 1983)
  • Quietly There: Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel (Fantasy, 1984)
  • The Best of Zoot Sims (Pablo 1985)

As sideman

With Pepper Adams

  • Plays Charles Mingus (Workshop Jazz, 1963) (Fresh Sound, 2003)
  • Encounter! (Prestige, 1968)

With Trigger Alpert

  • Trigger Happy! (Riverside, 1956)

With Chet Baker

  • Chet Baker & Strings (Columbia, 1954)
  • Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (Riverside, 1959)

With Louis Bellson

  • Louis Bellson Quintet (Norgran, 1954)

With Clifford Brown

  • Jazz Immortal (Pacific Jazz, 1954)

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band

  • Jazz Is Universal (Atlantic, 1962)

With Al Cohn

  • The Sax Section (Epic, 1956)

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Oscar Peterson

  • The Tenor Giants Featuring Oscar Peterson (Pablo, 2000)

With Miles Davis

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

With Jon Eardley

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

With Booker Ervin

  • The Book Cooks, with Tommy Turrentine (Bethlehem, 1961)

With Art Farmer

  • The Aztec Suite (United Artists, 1959)

With Curtis Fuller

  • South American Cookin' (Epic, 1961)

With Chubby Jackson

  • All Star Big Band (Prestige, 1950)

With Quincy Jones

  • The Birth of a Band! (Mercury, 1959)

With Stan Kenton

  • Portraits on Standards (Capitol, 1953)
  • The Kenton Era (Capitol, 1940–54, [1955])

With Jack Kerouac

  • Blues and Haikus (Hanover-Signature, 1959)

With Irene Kral

  • SteveIreneo! (United Artists, 1959)

With Carmen McRae

  • Something to Swing About (Kapp, 1959)

With the Metronome All-Stars

  • Metronome All-Stars 1956 (Clef, 1956)

With Charles Mingus

  • The Complete Town Hall Concert (Blue Note, 1962 [1994])

With Red Mitchell

  • Happy Minors (Bethlehem, 1955)

With Jack Montrose

  • Arranged by Montrose (Pacific Jazz, 1954)

With Gerry Mulligan

  • California Concerts (Pacific Jazz, 1955)
  • Presenting the Gerry Mulligan Sextet (EmArcy, 1955)
  • Mainstream of Jazz (EmArcy, 1956)
  • Profile (Emarcy, 1956)
  • The Arranger (1946–1957) Columbia (1977 CD Mullenium 1998)
  • The Gerry Mulligan Songbook (World Pacific, 1957)
  • The Concert Jazz Band (Verve, 1960)
  • Gerry Mulligan and the Concert Jazz Band on Tour (Verve, 1960 [1962])
  • Something Borrowed – Something Blue (Limelight, 1966)

With Oliver Nelson

  • Encyclopedia of Jazz (Verve, 1966)
  • The Sound of Feeling (Verve, 1966)

With Anita O'Day

  • All the Sad Young Men (Verve, 1962)

With Shorty Rogers'

  • Shorty Rogers Courts the Count (RCA Victor, 1954)

With Lalo Schifrin and Bob Brookmeyer

  • Samba Para Dos (Verve, 1963)

With Phoebe Snow'

  • Phoebe Snow (Shelter, 1974)

With Sonny Stitt

  • Broadway Soul (Colpix, 1965)

With Clark Terry

  • Mother! Mother! (Pablo, 1979)

With Sarah Vaughan

  • Vaughan and Violins (Mercury, 1958)
  • The Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 1 (Pablo, 1979)
  • Linger Awhile: Live at Newport and More (Pablo, 2000)

With Joe Williams

  • At Newport '63 (RCA Victor, 1963)

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