Huey "Sonny" Simmons (August 4, 1933 – April 6, 2021) was an American jazz musician.
Simmons was born in Sicily Island, Louisiana. He grew up in Oakland, California, where he began playing the English horn. (Along with Vinny Golia, Simmons was among the few musicians to play the instrument in a jazz context.) At age 16 he took up the alto saxophone, which became 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 of his 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 both 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 night clubs again. His resurgence in the mid-1990s was marked by two albums, Ancient Ritual and American Jungle, for Quincy Jones' Qwest Records, along with regular appearances in European jazz festivals such as the Moers Festival and Saalfelden Jazz Festival. From 2000, he was co-leader of The Cosmosamatics with reed player Michael Marcus. Simmons was the subject of the 2003 documentary film "In Modern Time -- a Sonny Simmons Story" by Robert Brewster. In 2008, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jazz Foundation.
PICTURE: ©Matt Brown Guildford, UK - Sonny Simmons