Zoot Sims holds a place of honor, not only for his individual prowess but also for his pivotal role in the legendary ensemble, The Four Brothers. Sims’ tenure with The Four Brothers, a saxophone section within Woody Herman’s Second Herd, redefined the sound of jazz ensembles.
The Four Brothers, named after the Jimmy Giuffre composition that became their signature tune, was a groundbreaking saxophone section that featured three tenor saxophones and one baritone saxophone. Alongside Zoot Sims, this ensemble included Stan Getz, Herbie Steward, and Serge Chaloff. Their sound was a departure from the typical two-alto, two-tenor setup of most sax sections, lending a richer, more homogenous texture that was both innovative and captivating.
Zoot Sims’ tenure with The Four Brothers was marked by a fluid, swinging style that perfectly complemented the ensemble’s sound. His approach, characterized by a smooth, laid-back phrasing combined with a robust tone, added a unique dimension to the group’s performances and recordings. Sims’ ability to blend seamlessly with the other saxophonists while still maintaining his individual voice was a testament to his technical mastery and musical sensitivity.
The Four Brothers’ tenure with Woody Herman’s band saw several recording triumphs that have since become classics in the jazz canon. The 1947 recording of “Four Brothers” itself stands out as a monumental achievement. This track showcased the harmonious interplay and the distinctive ‘four brothers’ sound – a texture so cohesive and compelling that it became a hallmark of the Herman band.
Another notable recording was “Early Autumn,” a piece that featured Stan Getz but still highlighted the integral role of Sims and the other saxophonists in creating the piece’s lush, layered sound. The success of these recordings was not just in their popularity but in how they influenced the sound of jazz ensembles to come.
Zoot Sims’ work with The Four Brothers laid the groundwork for future saxophone sections and left an indelible mark on the world of jazz. The blend of Sims’ fluid, melodic playing with the innovative arrangements of the ensemble resulted in a sound that was both sophisticated and accessible.