Friday, August 18, 2006

Sonny Simmons - Live at the Cheshire Cat (Hello World, 2006)

This is a two CD collection of archival recordings by the wonderful alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons, which were recorded in 1980 upon his relocation to the Pacific northwest. Hooking up with some talented local sidemen, Simmons made these bootleg-quality recordings of his live performances. This first disc comes from a club gig in Olympia, Washington where Simmons, backed by bass and drums takes off on an epic Coltrane-like 43 minute exploration of "It'’s the Talk of the Town"” pouring molten lava out of his horn in great waves while a drummer and percussionist heap mountains of rhythm behind him. Think "“Chasin'’ the Trane"” at twice the length, and just as raw.

The second disc was recorded in San Francisco later on in the year with a more traditional trio backing him up. "Lost Village of Um Tombey" cuts a Pharoah Sanders type groove, with the band going into a spiritual mode with Simmons improvising over them. They also stretch out at length on the standard "“Body and Soul"” where Sonny pays homage to one of his mentors, Eric Dolphy, by channeling the great mans leaping and lunging alto saxophone sound. Sonny Simmons is one of the most neglected figures of post-bop jazz and one would hope that this would cast a little attention in his direction. Unfortunately this is an extremely limited release, and according to the Downtown Music Gallery, only 85 copies were pressed.

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