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Sonny Stitt: Stittís Bits: The Bebop Recordings (1949-1952) (2006)

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Sonny Stitt: Stittís Bits: The Bebop Recordings (1949-1952) No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

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 listening suggests Stitt was one of, if not the, greatest tenor saxophonist of the bebop era.

The proof is right here in this comprehensive three-CD box set, which includes all the extant recordings, including alternate takes, that Stitt made for Prestige from his first date on tenor sax in October 1949 through the end of his first stint with Prestige in February 1952. A number of tracks from the Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt Band, including ones featuring only Ammons on tenor sax, are included—and they only emphasize Stitt's primacy as clearly the best bebop tenor in that group.

Yes, Stitt can and does slug it out with the more R&B-inclined Ammons on dueling tenor tracks, but the cream of this box set is the Stitt quartet tracks and his spectacular tenor sax recording debut with Jay Jay [sic] Johnson's Boppers, a quintet that included pianist John Lewis and drummer Max Roach. Then there are ten tracks from a quartet with legendary bop pianist Bud Powell where Stitt's solos build with a fluidity, speed and logic akin to the greatest examples by bebop founders Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. And don't miss Stitt's warm ballad style, or his infrequent but definitive baritone sax solos.

Track Listing: CD1: Afternoon In Paris [take 1]; Afternoon In Paris [take 2]; Elora [take 1]; Elora [take 2]; Teapot [take 1]; Teapot [take 2]; Blue Mode [take 1]; Blue Mode [take 2]; All God's Chillun Got Rhythm; Sonny Side; Bud's Blues; Sunset; Strike Up The Band; Strike Up The Band [Alternate Take]; I Want To Be Happy; Taking A Chance On Love; Fine And Dandy [Take 1]; Fine And Dandy [Take 2]; Avalon; Later; Ain't Misbehavin'; Mean To Me; Stairway To The Stars; Bye Bye; Let It Be. CD2: Blues Up And Down [Take 1]; Blues Up And Down [Take 2]; Blues Up And Down [Take 3]; You Can Depend On Me [Take 1]; You Can Depend On Me [Take 2]; Touch Of The Blues; Dumb Woman Blues; Chabootie; Who Threw The Sleeping Pills In Rip Van Winkle's Coffee?; Gravy (Aka Walkin'); Easy Glide; Count Every Star; Nice Work If You Can Get It; There Will Never Be Another You; Blazin'; Back In Your Own Back Yard; Sweet Jennie Lou; Vie En Rose; Seven Eleven; Think You've Chosen Me; After You've Gone; Our Very Own; 'S Wonderful; Stringin' The Jug; Nevertheless (I'm In Love With You). CD3: Jeepers Creepers; Imagination; Cherokee; 'Round About One A.M.; Jug; Wow; Blue And Sentimental; Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away); Can't We Be Friends; New Blues Up And Down; Thrill Of Your Kiss; If The Moon Turns Green; P.S. I Love You; This Can't Be Love; Down With It; For The Fat Man; Splinter; Confession'; Undecided; (It Will Have To Do) Until The Real Thing Comes Along; Because Of Rain; Charmine; Cool Mambo; Sonny Sounds; Blue Mambo; Stitt's It.

Personnel: Sonny Stitt: alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; John Hunt, Bill Massey, Joe Newman: trumpet; Eli Dabney, Matthew Gee, Bennie Green, J.J. Johnson, Alfred Chippy Outcalt: trombone; Gene Ammons: tenor saxophone; Clarence Anderson, Charles Bateman, Kenny Drew, John Houston, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, Junior Mance, Bud Powell: piano; Nelson Boyd, Earl May, Tommy Potter, Curly Russell, Ernie Shepard, Gene Wright: bass; Art Blakey, Jo Jones, Wesley Landers, Max Roach, Teddy Stewart, Shadow Wilson: drums; Humberto Morales: timbales; Larry Townsend, Ted Williams: vocals.

Record Label: Concord Music Group

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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