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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: Don't Call Me Bird!

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Absolute Distribution, a Spanish consortium of labels, has done it again, following up last year's welcome single-disc reissue (at least outside the U.S.) of Stitt's 1970s Cobblestone sessions, Tune-Up! + Constellation, with two 1959 West Coast dates for Verve featuring Stitt on alto with a crack California rhythm section. Even though a first-time reissue, the disc is scarce domestically, but the musical content and production values make it well worth the search. A listener familiar with Stitt's tenor duel with Sonny Rollins on “The Eternal Triangle" (Sonny Side Up, Verve 1957) might question the back-cover blurb proclaiming alto as Stitt's ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

The Prodigious and Prolific Sonny Stitt: 16 New Releases for 2007 (and still counting!)

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“You can't do no more than has already been done. Remember a man named Art Tatum; now, who can play any more than that? ...You ain't supposed to play over people's heads. You're trying to give a message to people, and make it as simple as possible for the average man."

The quote is by a paradoxical reactionary who, like Tatum, could improvise on a tune and make you think you'd heard it. Only after 20-30 more listenings did it become apparent you hadn't heard anything yet. Sonny Stitt was not only a consummate master of ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Sonny Stitt: Quadromania/One O'Clock Jump

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Sonny Stitt Quadromania: One O'Clock Jump Membran Records 2006

Regarded by many musicians as the prototypal, or “most perfect," saxophonist, Sonny Stitt recorded some 150 sessions under his own name. These four discs in German company Membran's Quadromania series will, with the possible exception of some recorded tenor battles 1950-52 under Gene Ammons' name, take care of most listeners' needs from late 1946 to early 1954. There are close to four hours of music with Stitt in the company of numerous founding fathers of modern jazz, or bebop: Bud Powell, Kenny Dorham, J. J. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: Stitts Bits: The Bebop Recordings (1949-1952)

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Are ideas floating out there to be had by anyone? Or do they emanate exclusively from specific individuals? And how do they apply to the creation and development of bebop? Sonny Stitt is at the heart of this conundrum. As an alto saxophonist, he always fell under the shadow of Charlie Parker and was often accused of being a Bird- clone. Yet evidence suggests he was developing his own early bebop style concurrent with Parker, before he ever heard Bird. Then there's also the dismissal of his tenor sax playing as just cloning Bird on tenor. But a more careful ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stitt's Bits: The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952

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Sonny Stitt Stitt's Bits: The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952 Prestige 2006

Presented in chronological order, saxophonist Sonny Stitt's Prestige recordings, packaged here as a three-CD box set, reveal the pure tenor tone and fluid technique that Stitt always brought to a session. Most of the selections are from 1950, and many feature fellow saxophonist Gene Ammons as Stitt's musical partner.

The set comes with an informative essay by Harvey Pekar that invites questions as to why Stitt (1924-1982) never got the credit he was due as a pioneer of bebop and ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stitt's Bits: The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952

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Sonny StittStitt's Bits: The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952Prestige2006 There are two stories detractors tell about saxophonist Sonny Stitt (1924-82). Actually, his detractors tell many stories, but these two are chiefly musical. The first says that Stitt's musical inventiveness amounted to no more than being a reasonably good Charlie Parker clone when he began playing alto in the mid-1940s. The second says that Stitt frittered away his talent over the subsequent decades, taking dates and gigs indiscriminately without attending adequately to his musical development.Stitt is nevertheless regarded by many, maybe even ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: New York Jazz

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"Genius" is a misunderstood, overused term. In music there have been only a few geniuses--visionaries who have tapped into the original, vital stream that we might consider musical consciousness and changed it--Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Armstrong, Parker, Coltrane. Sonny Stitt was not one of the geniuses, nor one of the innovators. Rather, he took the complex language of Charlie Parker and created a syntax and rhetoric that the rest of us could understand and even employ. The 2003 reissue of New York Jazz (Verve, 1956), one of an estimated 150 sessions recorded under the saxophonist's name, appears to have passed beneath ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: Work Done

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Few musicians have sustained as many physical and mental shocks throughout the course of a nomadic, non-stop and frequently solitary career as Sonny Stitt. More often than not, the peripatetic saxophonist would arrive in town, call up the best local rhythm section and try to keep his spirits up for a five-night stand, finding time during the day to cut a couple of quick sides at a nearby recording studio before heading for the next town or overseas flight.

The life and substances required to fuel it took their toll, and by the mid-sixties Stitt was having as many bad ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: It's Magic

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This 2005 release of a shelved 1969 recording should hold the greatest interest for Sonny Stitt completists. The saxophonist is estimated to have led 150 recording sessions, of which I've now managed to collect 70--but given the current scarcity of some of his best recordings, including the out-of-print date with Oscar Peterson on Verve and the supreme Endgame Brilliance on the defunct 32 Jazz label, a collector can't afford to be too choosy.

As an instrumentalist, Stitt bears somewhat the same relationship to the American Songbook as vocalists like Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra. On his 1950s albums ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: Work Done

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Sonny Stitt is sure playing like he means it on Work Done. Recorded live at the Keystone Korner in 1976, Stitt is in excellent form as he swings the living daylights out of a searing collection of standards, blues, and contemporary songs. On tenor, he is absolutely presidential, wailing through “Indiana" and “Loose Walk" (also known as “Blues Walk" for you Clifford Brown fans). Stitt spews out more ideas in one solo than any Berklee student could dream of in one semester.

He even burns through contemporary songs such as Stevie Wonder's “You Are the Sunshine of My ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: It's Magic

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It isn't, though. Magic, that is. While jazz fans may perennially debate saxophonist Sonny Stitt's status as a bebop innovator (ie, how much of its vocabulary did he learn from Charlie Parker, and how much did he develop independently), no one is in disagreement about his being one of the most over-recorded of jazz players. Stitt recorded for everyone, everywhere, and his discography--and reputation--have suffered accordingly. It's Magic is a hitherto unreleased 1969 Chicago Stitt session with organist Don Patterson and drummer Billy Pierce. It is not the first Stitt album I would recommend to anyone.Nor is it ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: Personal Appearance

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Few artists recorded as prolifically as Sonny Stitt; over the course over 100+ albums, he seemed to play with anybody willing to pick up an instrument and join him in the studio. Inevitably, there was a lot of mediocre material released, and it can be a little tricky finding Stitt's best stuff.

Personal Appearance is one of the better ones, an outing which finds the saxophonist playing in a Parker-influenced style over a selection of bebop favorites like “Easy To Love" and “Autumn In New York." Stitt's most famous and highly regarded recordings are those in which he ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sonny Stitt: Sax O'Bebop

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This recent four-disc set covers the period 1946-1952, during which Sonny Stitt made the transition from promising young bebopper to jazz master. It is typical of the British Proper boxes; it's affordable, the sound ranges from so-so to fairly good, and the music is often wonderful. In the case of Sax O'Bebop, there are a few alternate takes, some acknowledged masterpieces, and some rare sessions.

Disc one starts with Dizzy Gillespie's classic 1946 sextet session, featuring Stitt on alto, and includes some rousing Savoy sessions from the same year, as well as a rare Kenny Clarke date for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miles Davis and Sonny Stitt: Jazz Time: Olympia

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On page 249 of his autobiography, Miles Davis recounts driving around Philly with Jimmy Heath, recalling that he “probably was complaining to him about Sonny Stitt playing the wrong [stuff] on 'So What,' because he would always [mess] up on that tune."

The marvel is that Miles called on Stitt to replace Coltrane in the first place. But Wayne Shorter wanted to stay on with Art Blakey, so the most complete and polished bebop player of them all, a saxophonist embodying, but not extending beyond, the previous tradition took the coveted chair. Until these recordings of an October ...



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