Monday, March 3, 2014

Sonny Stitt

Inevitable comparisons to fellow bop alto saxophonist Charlie Parker always dogged Sonny Stitt, and he was not appreciative of that ultimate assessment. So the title of this recording expresses his disdain for the rivalry and similarity, real or imagined. Fact is, Stitt's acumen was all his own, busting away from Parker's influence a good ten years before these 1959 sessions. Taken from the original albums Saxophone Supremacy and Sonny Stitt Swings the Most, he hooks up with a solid gold Hollywood, CA based rhythm team of pianist Lou Levy, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Mel Lewis. The three cannot be more supportive, viable, or musically adept in giving Stitt a launching pad to articulate his original notions. Most of these tunes are standards adapted to the bop format Stitt mastered, and his fluidity in playing melodies on classics "I Cover the Waterfront," "Just Friends," and "All of Me" makes you realize what an advanced, expert player he was. Somehow Stitt is able to shade every nuance with brawn, tackle each melody with perfection, and stamp his personal brand in the even most well-worn tune. The empathetic Lou Levy in particular is on his game, listening, supporting, comping, complementing, and driving Stitt to lofty heights, while Vinnegar and Lewis are spot-on with every note. There's a signature take of "It's You or No One," made popular by tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, but it easily could have been Stitt via this version. Two other pieces, "Lonesome Road" and "The Gipsy" demonstrate where Stitt's soulfulness might eclipse Parker's, while his atypical ballad treatment of "There Is No Greater Love" has him at his most patient and saintly. There are also five original compositions of the saxophonist, ranging from the upbeat basic bop blues of "Two Bad Days Blues," the frenetic, hot and heavy "Blue Smile," to a hip swinging "Jaunty" with an involved melody surrounding basic changes but not a basic improvisation. Also included are the "Yardbird Suite"-like "Blue Sunday," and "That's the Way to Be" a lighthearted tune, which purportedly is Stitt's first recording as a vocalist — and he sounds great in a Babs Gonzales-cum-Nat King Cole style. On the final track, "The Way You Look Tonight," he plays tenor sax, an instrument he picked up a decade prior in response to the copy cat accusationists, and a horn he would play more (along with baritone on occasion) into the '60s. This is a precious document for Sonny Stitt, dubbed in the liner notes "a very good listening album." It is one every fan of his should own, and is highly recommended for others wishing to discover this magical musician.
Michael G. Nastos

Sonny Stitt
Don't Call Me Bird
Tracks
1 I Cover the Waterfront (Green, Heyman) 3:16
2 Lazy Bones (Carmichael, Mercer) 7:42
3 Sunday (Cohn, Krueger, Miller, Styne) 3:56
4 Just Friends (Klenner, Lewis) 3:50
5 All of Me (Mark, Simmons) 3:03
6 Two Bad Days Blues (Stitt) 4:45
7 It's You or No One (Cahn, Styne) 4:32
8 Blue Smile (Stitt) 4:02
9 Lonesome Road (Austin, Shildkret) 4:05
10 The Gipsy (Reid) 4:04
11 That's the Way to Be (Stitt) 2:10
12 There Is No Greater Love (Jones, Symes) 5:03
13 Jaunty (Stitt) 5:12
14 Blue Sunday (Stitt) 3:25
15 The Way You Look Tonight (Fields, Kern) 5:02
Personnel
Sonny Stitt - as & ts
Lou Levy - p
Leroy Vinnegar - b
Mel Lewis - dr
Recorded at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, December 21, 22 & 23, 1959.

3 comments:

Melanchthon said...

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neil said...

I'm salivating already...

hasoo said...

Melanchthon, thanks for Stitt's Don't Call Me Bird.

You are awesome.