Lost Tapes: Zoot Sims in Baden-Baden is essentially a jam session featuring a varied ensemble of musicians recorded in a studio concert on June 23, 1958. The recorded session lay forgotten in the archives of the Southwestern German broadcast corporation Südwestrundfunk until a flawed pressing of poor quality was released in 1988. The newly reissued disc from Jazzhaus, like those in its Legends Live series, has been remastered to what the company calls “high-end technology standards.” It is a lively session deserving of “high-end” treatment.
The 11 tracks on the album use different combinations of musicians except for the rhythm section—Hans Hammershmid (piano), Peter Trunk (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums)—which plays on all the tunes. Sims plays on seven tracks, and European saxophonist Hans Koller, whom he had met earlier that year when he was playing with Benny Goodman at Expo ’58 in Brussels, also plays on seven. They are joined by Willie Dennis, who had also played with Goodman, on trombone on three songs, and he solos as part of a quartet on a mellow version of “These Foolish Things.”
Helmut Brandt plays in the larger ensemble on two tracks and plays baritone sax in a witty quartet exploration of the pop standard, “I Surrender Dear.” Koller fronts the rhythm section with a hard-driving take on Richard Rogers’ “Fallin’ in Love” and helps Sims on fine interpretations of the venerable jazz classic “Tangerine,” as well as “Alan’s Alley.”
Koller and Sims switch to the clarinet for a sweet duet on pianist Hammershmid’s composition “Minor Meeting for Two Clarinets.” Not surprisingly there is some nicely subtle work from the piano and the rest of the rhythm section as well. Two more Hammershmid originals, “Blue Night” and “Open Door” have the whole crew with an augmented horn section combining ensemble solo work with big band riffs, the best of both worlds so to speak. “Open Door” gives Clarke, who had played with the Modern Jazz Quartet, a chance to show his chops.
A swinging romp through “I’ll Remember April,” which is the longest track on the album, and Sim’s composition “Trottin'” close out the album on a high note. Sims, Koller, and Dennis feed off each other with gusto. It’s a shame that these tapes have been laying around unheard for so many years, and while Südwestrundfunk is to be congratulated for getting both these Lost Tapes and Legends Live sets out from the vaults, you have to wonder why they took so long.