Friday, March 12, 2010

More on The Two Sonny Simmons Musics: Sonny the Great

A few posts ago we criticized the idea that Sonny Simmons, saxophonist and free jazz master, is somehow diminished and unworthy in the second phase of his career. Yes, there is the wonderful music he made from around 1962 to 1970, then after a lesser presence, a second phase of his career that lasts up to today.

The Ayler Records release covered in that post was a free blowing trio date, and I argued that, once you understood the sort of session involved, that it was in no way a lesser Sonny sounding off there.

Today we look at another session, from 1996, and it is of the more ambitious, carefully conceived sort of dates with compositional elements of a high caliber and a free but structured group situation. It's a quartet of Simmons on tenor, Michael Marcus on C-melody sax and manzello, Steve Neil, bass, and ex-Ornettian Charles Moffett on drums.

The album is Judgement Day, and it's still in print, on CIMP Records.

The group is really up to the challenge of playing with Sonny at full steam. Moffett particularly makes this date a burner. He's all over the place and kicks everyone into overdrive.

But it's Sonny the writer-conceptualist and Sonny the sax master that really come across on this very fine sounding recording.

IS he a lesser artist on this date? NOOOOOOO. He kicks blank as much or even more than he did in his first career phase. If you love Sonny, this is indispensable. If you don't know Sonny, this is indispensable. If you don't want to hear this music because you have preconceptions about it, that's understandable. But you will be missing out. And that saddens me.


  1. Thanks for addressing the issue! Since 2000 alone Simmons has released over 30 albums! I'm a long-time fan but a recent convert - the 2000s precisely - and am still puzzled nobody pays attention! Check also his stuff with J.Shurdut, his duet with Bobby Few, and his album with symphony orchestra (from Norway)... All of that is way more surprising and diverse than anybody's output... Seems there's the same problem with a guy like John Tchicai: he's tried church music, heavy metal, electronica, and people are still stuck on his Fontana output. Hey out there, they are not dead YET!

  2. I agree. It seems that when artists cannot be easily pigeonholed they do not always get the critical attention they deserve. Also, of course, we have been in a period where "Young Turks" get the lion's share of attention even though older artists may be doing some of their best work. That certainly applies to Simmons and Tchicai. I appreciate the feedback! Thanks.