As far as saxophone/organ combos go, few could rival the rampant prolificacy of Stitt/Patterson outfit of the 60s. Waxing no less than thirteen separate sessions, they also forwarded a standard of quality matched by only a handful (Turrentine/Smith and Davis/Scott are two of the small number of partnerships that stood on similar footing). Following closely on the heels of an earlier two-fer by the team, The Boss Men
this new compilation has several distinct differences. First, Stitt sticks almost completely to tenor and employs the Varitone amplification attachment that was his calling card during his later years (though, the device’s usually intrusive effects are hardly audible during the majority of tracks). Second, a fourth important member is added to the fold in the form of guitarist Grant Green, still in solid shape, and only in the infancy of the second Blue Note sojourn that would sap his creative strength and signal his descent into commercialism. Lastly, while originally issued on a smattering of separate albums, all of the tracks are from a single session at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio making for a comprehensive ‘Day In the Life’ of the Brothers 4.
The material for the date is pretty much par for the course for Stitt and Patterson, mimicking the kind of blues and boogaloo fare that was their usual repast. Easy, highly melodic blowing vehicles taken at tempos and time lengths that allow for plenty of congenial interplay and solos. James takes his usual place as rhythmic tinderbox lighting fires under his partners in a variety of subtly creative ways. Green does what seems like a lot of comping in the ensemble sections of the tunes, but his frequent solos are still brimming with perspicacious verve. His lengthy solo on the unlikely jazz number “Alexander’s Ragtime Bang” delivers a generous example of his patented, repetitive, single note picking style, while his protracted musing on “Mud Turtle” shows a mellow, but no less inventive side.
A particularly bluesy reading of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By” sets the lights low and rolls out a grooving lounge vibe that the players languish in. James sets up a shuffling go-go beat for “Donny Brook” and Green gets down and funky in response above the staccato comping of Patterson’s fluid fingers. Stitt gleans inspiration by his band mates and uncorks a solo steeped in buttery phrases. Rounding the track out the organist lets loose with a spiraling summary that deals in tight descending melodic flourishes and legato retorts soaked in pedal sustain. As mentioned, Stitt and Patterson were frequent confreres so there’s a lot to choose from in their joint catalog. But this final date for Prestige is a fitting summation of the level of quality musical collaboration they were able to nurture in each other’s company.
Prestige on the web: http://www.fantasyjazz.com
Personnel: Sonny Stitt- tenor saxophone (Varitone), alto saxophone*; Don Patterson- organ; Grant Green- guitar; Billy James- drums. Recorded: September 15, 1969, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.