Sonny Simmons Profiled

Source: The Wire.

Here was an apparent paradox of the man. He had lived nearly his entire life in big cities, beginning with Monroe, northern Louisiana, and Oakland, California. As a youngster, he had been eager to fully embrace the potentialities and temptations offered within and outside the limits of the “black ghetto”. But he was carrying the backwoods all along, as both an emotional compass and a source of inner strength.

It could be argued that this paradox extended to a large share of the music known as free jazz. Generally thought of within a conceptual framework designed to account for various Western avant garde art movements, free jazz had, from Ornette Coleman on, always been a distant offshoot of the life and culture originating in what clarinetist John Carter has termed “The Fields period in American history”. It was at least as much so as it was a product of the urban, sophisticated settings with which previous stages of jazz modernity are commonly associated and where it itself blossomed.