Online since August 2002

A tenor man plays alto — well

From the Summer 2004 issue.

Live at Falcon Lair
Live at Falcon Lair
By Zoot Sims with the Joe Castro Trio

Pablo / Fantasy Records: 2004

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

The cover photo on "Live at Falcon Lair" shows pianist Joe Castro and sax man Zoot Sims at their respective instruments, decked out in slightly rumpled white t-shirts; a dress code that tells you what type of session you're going to hear. The dress shirts and coats and ties are draped over the back of a chair somewhere; now let's get loose and play some jazz.

This never-before-released 1956 session isn't a "live-at-a-club" disc. It's live in Joe Castro's playhouse, an apartment over the garage at the Beverly Hills estate of his then-wife, tobacco heiress Doris Duke. The atmosphere is relaxed, featuring Sims in his milieu – swinging in front of a piano-bass-drums rhythm section. Zoot Sims is best known as a tenor saxophone player who came to fame under the batons of Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan. But on "Live at Falcon Lair" he tries on the alto sax, with wonderful results. His tone on the higher-timbre horn is reminiscent of Lee Konitz' sound: sweet, with just a bit of a blur to it. But Konitz' thing wasn't/isn't swing. Zoot Sims' was, and he's on fine display here.

The set opens with the classic Dizzy Gillespie romp, "A Night in Tunisia," sounding loose and cool. Also included are the American songbook gems "Pennies from Heaven," "East of the Sun (West of the Moon)" and "It's Always You," and three Castro originals.

Castro is a real find for me; I'd heard the name, but never his music. He's one of those pianists who can shift from a low-key accompanist's mode to bright, slightly quirky soloing, full of verve and personality, without a hitch. And he sounds just perfect behind Sims, his crisp, succinct chording acting as a touchstone for the saxophonist's free-swinging style.

It's hard to figure why this one has never been released until now. Like the two recent unreleased Bud Powell sets that Pablo Records put out – "Paris Sessions" and "Parisian Thoroughfares" – "Live at Falcon Lair" is a shining diamond in the rough.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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