Al and Zoot

by Kevin Ingraham

Al and Zoot
Zoot and Al
Which is Which ?
Al can swing
Zoot can’t not swing
Where Zoot got it
who can tell
Like Johnny Lee ‘bout the boogie
It’s in him
and it’s gotta come out
They’re trading licks
in and out
one behind
one out front
one backing
one blowing
working those notes
while playing
Zoot more breath
breath of life
Al more brass
both swinging without a net
no bass
no drums
no ivories
flowing out
like a warm breeze
joyful conversation
you gotta hear it
Al and Zoot
Zoot and Al

Having trouble playing the audio track below? Click Here

The above is is a little something written while listening to Al Cohn and Zoot Sims playing ” Improvisation for Unaccompanied Saxophones” a microcosm of swinging recorded first on the album ” You ‘N’ Me issued in 1960. According to the liner notes by Ira Gitler on the reissue, Zoot and Al had never recorded this before, it was just a little something they played for themselves. Leonard Feather, the A&R man on the date convinced them to include it on the album. Most people will probably get the reference in the written piece, but the Johnny Lee is in reference to a John Lee Hooker song, a great line from ‘Boogie Chillen’.

You can hear this piece all 2:22 min of it in its entirety (without my reading) on YouTube at If you get a chance, pick up the album or CD. There’s also a wonderful version of Angel Eyes by bassist Major Holly, who scats along with his bass, and some early Mose Allison on piano.

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