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04-29-2012 - Jazz Saxophonist Zoot Sims - Class of 1943


 American Jazz Saxophonist

John Haley "Zoot" Sims

October 29, 1925 - March 23, 1985

John Haley “Zoot” Sims was an American Jazz Saxaphonist. He was born in Inglewood, California, the son of vaudeville performers Kate Haley and John Sims. Growing up in a performing family, Sims learned to play both drums and clarinet at an early age. His father was a vaudeville hoofer. Sims prided himself on remembering many of the steps his father taught him. He grew up to be an accomplished alto saxophonist and eventually a great jazz musician.

Sims developed into an innovative tenor saxophonist. Throughout his career, he played with renowned bands, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton, and Buddy Rich. Sims was also one of Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers”, and he was known among his peers as one of the strongest swingers in the field. He frequently led his own combos and sometimes toured with his friend Gerry Mulligan’s sextet, and later with Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band.

In the 1950’s and ‘60s, Sims had a long, successful partnership with co-quintet leader Al Cohn. They were favorites at the New York club called “The Half Note”. Always fond of the higher register of tenor sax, Zoot also liked to play alto and later in his career added the soprano saxophone to his performances, while recording a series of albums for the Pablo Records label. Zoot also played on some of Jack Kerouac’s recordings.

Jazzman Zoot played in the Benny Goodman Band in 1943 at the age of 17, so that most likely would have been his class year at Leuzinger High School… but he only lasted a single year in high school and then went on the road. His brothers Ray and Bob Sims attended Leuzinger High School. They are members of Leuzinger’s Class of 1941. Ray played first trombone for Les Brown and his band of renown for 34 years. Bob played trumpet for The Harry James Orchestra.

Sims acquired the nickname “Zoot” early in his career while he was in the Kenny Baker Band in California. Zoot Sims died in New York in 1985.

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