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Joe & Zoot & More (Remastered)

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Album Review

At first glance, Philadelphia violinist Joe Venuti and Los Angeles tenor/soprano saxophonist Zoot Sims might seem an unlikely combination. Venuti was known for swing, classic jazz, and Dixieland, whereas Sims (who was young enough to be Venuti's son) was primarily a cool/bop musician along the lines of Stan Getz, Al Cohn, and Paul Quinichette. But when you think about it, the combination makes perfect sense. Before Sims made bop changes his main focus in the mid-'40s, he played in swing bands — and Sims (like Getz, Cohn, and Quinichette) was heavily influenced by the seminal Lester Young. So all things considered, it makes perfect sense for Venuti and Sims to join forces on Joe and Zoot and More (which was recorded in 1973 and 1974). Stepping outside of cool jazz and bop, Sims enthusiastically joins Venuti in a classic jazz/swing setting. The performances generally recall the early '30s, and Venuti and Sims enjoy an undeniably strong rapport on inspired versions of "I Found a New Baby," "Indiana," and other familiar standards. As gutsy and hard-swinging as the up-tempo performances are, Venuti and Sims are unapologetically sentimental on ballads like "There's a Small Hotel" and "My One and Only Love." Some bop snobs might think the ballads are toosentimental — in bop, ballad playing has often tended to be less sentimental and more intellectual than the swing and classic jazz ballad playing of the '30s. (Lyrical, romantic, and pretty don't necessarily mean ultra-sentimental.) But truth be told, there is nothing wrong with jazz instrumentalists being sentimental — it certainly worked well for Bunny Berigan, Chu Berry, Artie Shaw, and countless others who emerged in jazz's pre-bop era. Joe and Zoot and More is an excellent CD that Venuti fans and Sims admirers should both make a point of obtaining.

Biography

Born: 16 September 1903 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Although renowned as one of the world's great practical jokers (he once called a couple dozen bass players with an alleged gig and asked them to show up with their instruments at a busy street corner just so he could view the resulting chaos), Joe Venuti's real importance to jazz is as improvised music's first great violinist. He was a boyhood friend of Eddie Lang (jazz's first great guitarist) and the duo teamed up in a countless number of settings during the second half of the 1920s, including...
Full Bio
Joe & Zoot & More (Remastered), Joe Venuti
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