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Fri, 08.04.1933

Sonny Simmons, Musician born

Sonny Simmons

*Sonny Simmons was born on this date in 1933.  He was a Black jazz musician.  

Huey "Sonny" Simmons was born on Sicily Island, Louisiana. He grew up in Oakland, California, where he began playing the English horn (Simmons and Vinny Golia are among the few musicians to play the instrument in a jazz context). At 16, he took up the alto saxophone, his primary instrument. Simmons played primarily in an avant-garde style, often delving into free jazz.  His (then) wife, Barbara Donald, played trumpet on several early records, including his ESP-Disk titles Staying on the Watch and Music from the Spheres, Arhoolie title Manhattan Egos, and Contemporary titles Rumasuma and the double album Burning Spirits.

Simmons also partnered with Prince Lasha on several recordings, two of which – The Cry! (1963) and Firebirds (1968) – were released by Contemporary.  Personal problems derailed his music career and home life, leading to divorce and homelessness. He busked on the streets of San Francisco for many years until he resurrected his career in the early 1990s and began playing in nightclubs again.  

His revival in the mid-1990s was marked by two albums, Ancient Ritual and American Jungle, for Quincy Jones's Qwest Records, along with appearances in European jazz festivals such as the Moers Festival and Saalfelden Jazz Festival. He has since remained a regular performer at European festivals.  From 2000, he was co-leader of The Cosmosamatics with reed player Michael Marcus.  Sonny Simmons died on April 6, 2021. 

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