Sonny Simmons: The Other East


The Other East


Sonny Simmons (alto sax)


Ancient Ritual (Qwest 9-45623-2)

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Sonny Simmons (alto sax),

Charnett Moffett (bass), Zarak Simmons (drums)


Composed by Sonny Simmons


Recorded: San Francisco, CA, December 7-8, 1992


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Sonny Simmons had wanted this CD to be called Reincarnation, which would have been apt considering that he had spent a good part of the previous 15 years as a street musician in San Francisco, sometimes using the alias "Black Jack Pleasanton" to avoid recognition. Simmons was one of the earliest free jazz players, recording in the '60's with Eric Dolphy, Prince Lasha, Elvin Jones, and his then-wife, trumpeter Barbara Donald, before virtually disappearing from the scene by the mid-'70s. Yet given the undiminished vitality and adventurousness of his playing, this major-label comeback released in 1994 put him back on the map.

Simmons was joined for this session by bassist Charnett Moffett, the son of old friend and drummer Charles Moffett, and by his own son Zarak on drums. "The Other East" starts out with Simmons playing a rotating cycle of riffs and/or vamps, the first one bluesy, followed by others with the pronounced flavor of Indian classical music. Simmons then explodes, his fluid, cogent lines breathlessly insistent. His lucid phrasing and timbre most often resemble those of Ornette Coleman, although he periodically unleashes a dissonant cry that is more remindful of Dolphy. His overall concept, however, possesses a fully formed individuality. While regrettably the under-recorded Moffett can barely be heard, Zarak's drumming is persistently encouraging and responsive. His solo shows both an energetic technical mastery and a refined sense of coloration and texture, with particularly skillful use of the bass drum.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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