"Norman Granz, after founding Verve in the 1940s, later returned to the record-making business with his Pablo label; this was a smaller, less adventurous affair, as befitted a time (the 1970s) when the audience for conventional mainstream jazz had shrunk. Pablo was built around a small core of musicians who had often been with Granz during Verve's heyday--Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Joe Pass, &c. Unfortunately, most of the releases from the label tend to founder on Granz's unimaginative production, which usually involved putting the same handful of stars together in the studio in every possible combination; rarely were stars encouraged to experiment or try something fresh or risky.But Zoot Sims' albums for the label provide a shining exception. This is partly because of the involvement of the great pianist Jimmy Rowles in many of them--he's a pro's pro, who like Roger Kellaway or Dave McKenna has a positive inability to take it easy. Rowles masterminded the band's repertoire, & his encyclopedic knowledge of tunes was a fine resource (as was his ability to intelligently arrange & reharmonize them). _If I'm Lucky_ is one of the best instances of their partnership, & one of my favourite mainstream jazz discs of recent decades. The essential drama of the music comes in the interplay between the eloquent but passionate tenor of Sims & the wily, unpredictable piano of Rowles. Sims's tone is greatly affecting--it might have the same Lestorian sources as Stan Getz, but it's less pretty & more plangent. The opening track, "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone", is immensely moving. But Sims can also piledrive through "It's Alright With Me", a reading that rivals Sonny Rollins' brilliant dissertation on it on _Worktime_. Rowles is a very different kind of player--sometimes rumbustious, as when he drops in a little stride or rumbles away in the bass; sometimes hard-swinging; sometimes delicate.There's little more to be said: this is great jazz playing, with an appealingly melancholic edge to it."
Eric T. Dean | Hamden, CT United States | 10/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone is remarkable, for its restraint, and for its powerful emotional statement. Rowles on piano sets up the tune in a quiet and wistful way, and then Zoot enters building up to a climax of surprising force . . . all in an understated but irresistible manner. It's a tribute to the musicians, who can make such a brilliant performance seem so effortless. One of my favorite Zoot Sims tunes."
Saxophone jazz "zootable" for all ages and tastes
Eric C. Sedensky | Madison, AL, US | 11/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great recording. I had no idea Zoot Sims was this good. The saxophone sound of Zoot is absolutely wonderful. He carries just the right amount of buzz with clear, impeccably broken or legato (as needed) notes, and he swims around in a cooly clever pool of sound created by his wonderful rhythm section, headlined by the amazing pianistic musings of Jimmy Rowles. The highlight is definitely the lead track, "(I Wonder) Where Our Love Has Gone", but the title track also stays in the head long after the listening is over. I was also intrigued by "Shadow Waltz", which is not written in three-quarter (waltz) time (so far as I can tell), and "I Hear a Rhapsody", which Sims and Rowles would have turned into a classic if it wasn't already. Which brings me to one of the most admirable features of this recording: the selection of songs, which are all delightful but are just hardly ever covered these days. The original Norman Granz production is well-balanced, and the remastering is clean. Everything about this work makes it easy to enjoy.
If you are a jazz fanatic or a saxophone buff, buy it for zoots and giggles. You won't regret the decision.
S. Soloff | Santa Monica, CA United States | 11/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is music that satisfies the ear, that takes you away (for awhile) from this bad news saturated world."