Born: August 4, 1933 Primary Instrument: Sax, alto
Sonny Simmons made a number of striking albums in the 60's. Born in 1933, he was already a well-travelled Parkerian and a signaled innovator on the West Coast when he first came to national attention in 1963 with his debut recording The Cry! (with the Prince Lasha Quintet, on Contemporary), live appearances in NYC with Sonny Rollins, and sessions with Eric Dolphy (for whom he wrote the standard, Music Matador) and Coltrane's rhythm section (Illumination!, on Impulse).
Though not a die-hard avant-gardist (like Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Lyons, other alto sax luminaries from the same generation, he sticks in his own provocative way to the tradition), he was then a leading figure of the Free Jazz scene in NYC with his wife Barbara Donald, cutting legendary records for ESP in 1966, Staying On The Watch and Music From The Spheres. Back in California, he made an acclaimed appearance at the Jazz Symposyum in Berkeley (1969). He became an underground hero with the likes of Bert Wilson, James Zitro, Smiley Winters and producer James Bronson Jr. The period also provided landmark records for Arhoolie (Manhattan Egos) and Contemporary (Firebirds, Rumasuma, Burning Spirits), which met international response....