Jazz Record Center

Zoot Sims - Baden-Baden 1958 - Jazz Haus


Jazz Haus

By Thomas Conrad

New albums of previously unreleased music have become an important jazz record category, historically and commercially. A new label out of Germany called Jazzhaus claims to be sitting on “probably the biggest collection of unpublished live jazz recordings in the world,” dating back to 1949 and culled from German radio and television broadcasts. This Zoot Sims release contains a jam session recorded in Baden-Baden, West Germany, in 1958. Sims, four German or Austrian reed players and American trombonist Willie Dennis shuttle in and out. The capable rhythm section is pianist Hans Hammerschmid, bassist Peter Trunk and drummer Kenny Clarke.

The best part is the opportunity to hear Sims again, and to ponder why his kind of swing and his kind of tone have disappeared from the Earth. No doubt Sims had played “Tangerine” hundreds of times. By himself with the rhythm section, he tosses off an impeccable, relaxed, comprehensive three-minute version, and swings his ass off. His tenor saxophone sound is velvety and erotic. He is also the only horn on a wildly fast but still suave “Alan’s Alley.” Tenor saxophonist Hans Koller (who was obviously influenced by Sims) and baritone saxophonist Helmut Brandt also play well.

But with historical releases it is all about the package. The sound here is decent, but the documentation is inadequate. Koller’s solo feature, “They Say It’s Wonderful,” is listed as “Fallin’ in Love” by “Richard Rogers” (sic). Very little information is provided to place this particular occasion in Baden-Baden, and these European players, in historical context. Jazzhaus has ambitious plans for opening their archives to the world. They should look at the output of labels like Sony Legacy and Mosaic to see how this work should be done.

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