Any tenor saxophonist with the surname Sims is certain to draw the attention of a seasoned reviewer, if only out of curiosity. The first name in this instance is Jared, not Zoot (well, not John). As it turns out, Sims has an impressive resume as a performer, writer, educator and leader; Against All Odds is at least his tenth album as foreman of his own group. Jared Sims is a capable player who knows his way around a horn; what he lacks is his namesake's instantly identifiable style and irrepressible tendency to swing under any and all conditions, a liability for which he must be forgiven, as few tenors have ever come close to Zoot Sims in those areas.
Comparisons aside, Jared Sims fares quite well in a program consisting entirely of his own compositions, musically epitomizing his experiences during the Covid pandemic and lockdown. His approach is direct and muscular, reflecting that of some of his teachers who include Ran Blake, George Garzone and Jerry Bergonzi. Although the music is thematic, it is not visibly so, with one notable exception, "Dear Gaia," a paean to Mother Earth, written and recited by Sims' wife, the poet Amy Alvarez. The title song was written for Sims' father who endured three months on a ventilator during the pandemic, "Threnody" for a student who did not survive. Other themes represent the hope of a return to normal, the tedium of each day in lockdown, the dread of seclusion, and even the daily changes in a flower pot.