Zoot Sims was one of the most naturally talented saxophone players in jazz, most remembered for his incredible sense of swing. He was the archetypal saxophonist and found fame with the general public thanks to having a Muppets puppet modelled on him, right down to the name.
Born in 1925, Zoot grew up as the youngest in a family of vaudeville performers. He took up the saxophone, developing his signature sound in the early 1940s when he was picked up by bandleader Benny Goodman. A few years later he was playing alongside fellow saxophonists Stan Getz, Herbie Steward and Serge Chaloff in Woody Herman's famed Second Herd band.
But after a move to New York his career stalled and by the early 50s Zoot was making ends meet working as a house painter. He was rescued by the legendary baritone saxophone player Gerry Mulligan who asked Zoot to join his quartet. From the late 50s onwards Zoot went on to form a series of successful partnerships, the most enduring with tenorman Al Cohn. Although his style got gruffer with age, Zoot's popularity continued right up until his death in 1985.
Ken Clarke, QC, MP and his guest John Altman discuss Zoots' life and music, revealing how he never once lost his enthusiasm or that gifted sense of swing throughout his career.
Ken's guest John Altman is a BAFTA award winning film and television composer. He's also a saxophonist who has played with such jazz luminaries as Chet Baker, Slim Gaillard and Red Holloway. He's played on rock music sessions too with stars such as Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Jimmy Page and Little Richard. Zoot Sims is one of his all-time favourite musicians.