My apologies for being a bit late with this, but I didn’t want to let the birthday of Zoot Sims go by unheralded. Zoot, one of my favorite jazz sax players, was born on October 29th, 1925, and I for one would like to honor him!
And of course, in honor of our blog, I would like to prove the wine connection. In Zoot’s case, there are actually a few points of intersection. First off, Betty Blake. She recorded a lovely version of the fine James Shelton song “Lilac Wine”, on which Zoot plays tenor saxophone, and there is a lyric in there that I think in many ways perfectly sums up the labor of love that is true winemaking. Substitute grapes for lilac, and you could have our philosophy in a phrase:
I made wine from the lilac tree
put my heart in its recipe
OK, next, Jack Kerouac. Famed writer of “On The Road”, “The Dharma Bums”, “Desolation Angels” and more, often considered the “King of the Beatniks”, the original down-and-out hipster. In truth, he was a serious, serious writer, but also a morose and self-destructively flawed human being.
In the end, say what you will about him, when you separate the myth from the man, it’s hard to deny his influence on literature, and culture in general. So, regarding wine specifically, Jack Kerouac very famously was busy supplying the room with wine when Allen Ginsburg first read “Howl” in public (at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955); an event which is often credited with launching both The Beat Generation, and the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Anyhow, back to Zoot. Kerouac made a number of audio recordings over the years, usually of his poetry, and Zoot played on what I think is probably the best of them, an album called “Blues and Haikus.”
So that’s that. Oh, and by the way, jazz music gets namechecked in the first (and certainly most famous) stanza of “Howl”:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
Next, the Muppets. One of the members of the Muppet band (the saxophonist, of course!) is named Zoot, after Zoot Sims.
And Zoot is in The Muppet Movie. And one of The Muppet Movie’s funniest scenes involves champagne. So there. Oh, and in that scene, Steve Martin plays the waiter. And Steve Martin’s first big commercial success was “The Jerk.”
And one of the more famous quotes from that movie is about wine:
Waiter: Would monsieur care for another bottle of Chateau Latour?
Navin: Ah yes, but no more 1966. Lets splurge! Bring us some fresh wine! The freshest you’ve got – this year! No more of this old stuff.
So there, again!
Which all OBVIOUSLY goes to show you that wine, jazz, and poetry go together beautifully. Happy Birthday Zoot!