“Zoot’s Sound of Surprise” — a poem by Bob Hecht

September 3rd, 2019

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Zoot Sims @ Keystone Korner, San Francisco CA 1983/Photo by Brian McMillen

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Zoot’s Sound of Surprise  .

Zoot blew this earth
into a friendlier place—
I can still see,
at the Half Note,
his rough angel face

Playin’ the blues,
straight-up cookers,
ballads, like hymns—
no more soulful sounds
than from John Haley Sims

And such joy on his face,
like he could hardly believe
that through his music
he could both give and receive

Prez was his man
though he listened to Bird,
but Zoot’s voice was his own,
he stood out in the Herd

Whiskey-tinged honey
flew from his horn,
notes pushing forward,
ideas never worn

Once saw him do a dance step
right there on the stand,
his feet graceful and well-placed
the way his notes land

I think Zoot lived
more for sound
than for glory or fame—
still seems unfair
he’s no household name

But like many giants
Zoot knew all those years
that his music wasn’t meant
for just anyone’s ears

Zoot’s gone—
his sound’s on the wind,
a joyous gift from the
big heart he opened

Zoot’s sound of surprise—
that’ll linger awhile,
that’ll light up my eyes
that’ll bring me a smile
that’ll start my feet movin’ to his

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Bob Hecht is a frequent contributor to. Jerry Jazz Musician .with essays and personal jazz stories. His poetry has previously been published in.Modern Haiku,.Bottle Rockets.and.Frogpond. A veteran jazz radio broadcaster, his podcast series, .The Joys of Jazz,. recently won international recognition from the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Awards, and can be heard at thejoysofjazz.com. His poem, “Zoot’s Sound of Surprise,” is featured within his recent podcast episode on Zoot Sims, which can be heard by clicking here

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From 1958, Zoot Sims (with Walter Davis, Art Taylor and Doug Watkins) plays “I’ll Remember April”

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