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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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SONNY STITT

Four Classic Albums

Avid AMSC 1034

 

 

CD1
Saxophone Supremacy
1. I Cover The Waterfront
2. Lazy Bones
3. Sunday
4. Just Friends
5. All Of Me
6. Two Bad Days Blues
7. It's You Or No One
8. Blue Smile

Sonny Stitt - Alto sax
Lou Levy - Piano
Leroy Vinnegar - Bass
Mel Lewis - Drums

Recorded Los Angeles, 21/23 December 1959

Sonny Stitt is highly under-rated by many jazz fans and even by some saxophone players; this is very difficult to understand because he was one of the giants of his era. He had a beautiful tone, an unlimited amount of improvisational ideas and a technique to deliver everything he wanted to play. He was also equally good on alto or tenor; his tone on the two horns was somewhat different, but elegant and immaculate on either instrument.

On this album he plays alto throughout and it is hard to imagine why some people dismissed him as a pure Charlie Parker copyist. His tone is completely different from Parker's and so is his approach to improvisation, it is much more melodic. When you listen to Sonny, you are never in doubt as to where you are in the sequence, you can hear all the changes.

The rhythm section is excellent. Mel Lewis is neat and swinging, Leroy Vinneger lays down a steady beat, and Lou Levy is one of the best pianists to ever play in a jazz quartet. The choice of material is heavily biased to standards, they are easy to follow and the playing on each one is truly delightful. Unfortunately there are only eight tracks; I could listen to this group all night!

I hope the other three albums are as good.


Personal Appearance
9. Easy To Love
10. Easy Living
11. Autumn In New York
12. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
13. For Some Friends
14. I Never Knew
15. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
16. East Of The Sun
17. Original?
18. Avalon

CD2
1. Blues Greasy

Sonny Stitt - Alto sax, tenor sax
Bobby Timmons - Piano
Edgar Willis - Bass
Kenny Dennis - Drums

Recorded New York, 1957

Although the names in the support group are good, this session has nothing like the sparkle of the previous one, which was recorded two years later. Although Sonny Stitt plays with the same conviction and confidence, everything seems to plod along without getting off the ground. The recording quality does not help, it sounds like an early 50s recording without the sound quality of the later session.

Sonny is just as brilliant, just as commanding in his theme statements and always capable of amazing improvisations. He plays tenor on some tracks and alto on others; he is just as convincing on both horns. By track 4, the rhythm section appears to raise its game a bit, although this may be an illusion because the tracks may not have been recorded in the playing order!

Blues Greasy is not on CD1, it is actually the first track on CD2.


Sits In With The Oscar Peterson Trio
2. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
3. Au Privave
4. The Gypsy
5. I'll Remember April
6. Scrapple From The Apple
7. Moten Swing
8. Blues For Pres, Sweets, Ben And All The Other Funky Ones

Sonny Stitt - Alto sax, tenor sax
Oscar Peterson - Piano
Ray Brown - Bass
Ed Thigpen - Drums

Recorded Paris, May 1959

With the Oscar Peterson Trio, the rhythm section is never in any doubt. They play beautifully on this recording and once again everything that so sparkled in the first recording appears again. Sonny is again in terrific form, playing with great confidence and taste and dazzling everyone with his amazing technique. He plays a couple of Charlie Parker tunes and why people thought of him as a Parker imitator in the past is hard to imagine. His tone is far superior to Bird's; his style of improvising is also very different. If anyone needs proof listen to Scrapple from the Apple: only the intensity is the same, everything else is different.

It is my opinion that Oscar Peterson was the best jazz pianist in the history of the music, both as a soloist and comping behind another. This particular version of the trio was one of the best; Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen are superb on bass and drums respectively.

On the penultimate track Sonny switches and a subtle change in his playing takes place: there is less attack, but more influence of Lester Young and Ben Webster is apparent. I find this sound equally as enjoyable as the more strident alto style. He remains on tenor for the last track.


The Battle Of Birdland
9. Easy Does It
10. Marchin'
11. S.O.S.
12. Jaws
13. I Can't Get Started

Sonny Stitt, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Tenor saxes
Doc Bagby - Organ
Charlie Rice - Drums

Recorded in Birdland, NYC, 1954

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davies often worked with organ and drums; I have not heard any other recording where Sonny Stitt used that kind of rhythm section. As usual with organ-led rhythm sections, the organ player does his best to drown everyone else out, as well as pumping out lots of noise distortion!

The two horn players are two of the best around; what a shame they did not have the Oscar Petersen Trio to back them, as I so much enjoyed on the previous session!

Don Mather



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