Zoot Sims Biography

John Haley Sims, 29 October 1925, Inglewood, California, USA, d. 23 March 1985, New York City, New York, USA. Sims played clarinet in grade school but took up the tenor saxophone to work with singer Kenny Baker in 1941. He played with Bobby Sherwood from 1942-43, Sonny Durham in 1943 and the Benny Goodman big band in 1944. His recording debut was with Joe Bushkin’s small group in 1944. The years 1944-46 were spent in the army. On discharge Sims rejoined Goodman, playing alongside his brother Ray until 1947 when he joined Woody Herman, becoming famous as one of the ‘Four Brothers’ (the other saxophonists were Stan Getz, Herbie Steward and Serge Chaloff). He left to play with Artie Shaw from 1949-50, then toured Europe with Goodman at regular intervals (1950, 1958, 1972 and 1976) and also toured with Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan.

In the early 70s Sims started playing soprano saxophone as well as tenor, and later in the decade embarked on a prolific period of recording for Norman Granz’s Pablo label, making approximately 15 albums between 1975 and 1984. In 1972 and 1978 he took part in reunion concerts with Herman. He also liked to freelance, especially in company with tenor saxophonist Al Cohn, with whom he had first worked in the early 50s. Sims was the first American to play a residency at Ronnie Scott’s following the lifting of the embargo on visiting musicians in 1961, and he returned there many times, his last visit being in 1982. He toured Scandinavia in 1984, but the doctors had diagnosed terminal cancer, of which he died in 1985. Zoot Sims was a redoubtable exponent of the tenor style developed by Lester Young and contributed swinging, lithe solos to countless big band arrangements.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


To place an order or for customer service, call toll-free 1-800-336-4627 or outside the United States, call 1-610-649-7565
Open Monday - Friday: 7am-10pm, Saturday: 9am-9pm, Sunday: 10am-8pm (Eastern Time)