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Gene Ammons & Sonny Stitt: Left Bank Encores

David A. Orthmann By

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The antithesis of studio-bred perfection, Left Bank Encores is another interesting artifact of Ammons and Stitt’s long-term partnership. The presence of a large, vocal crowd at the Famous Ballroom doesn’t spur the expected tenor battle; rather, something looser and less dramatic occurs.

During a brisk rendition of “Just In Time,” the set’s opener, Ammons states the melody then delivers a solo full of short, abrupt phrases with a burly, elephantine tone. The rhythm section, comprised of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Billy Higgins, manages to swing efficiently and stay out of Ammons’ way. Brief and to the point, the tenor saxophonist’s soul-stirring accompaniment is a perfect match for Etta Jones’ vocals during a raucous take of “Exactly Like You.”

In contrast to Ammons’ large, lumbering presence, Stitt’s brief turn on the same track is a brilliant patchwork that brings together portions of the tune’s melody, blues locutions, and bebop flights into a coherent statement. “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is noteworthy for the inspired give and take between Stitt and Walton on the saxophonist’s extended alto solo.

Track Listing: 1. Just In Time; 2. They Can't Take That Away From Me; 3. Theme From Love Story; 4. Exactly Like You; 5. Don't Go To Strangers; 6. Autumn Leaves; 7. Blues Up And Down.

Personnel: Gene Ammons--tenor saxophone; Sonny Stitt--tenor and alto saxophone; Cedar Walton--piano; Sam Jones--bass; Billy Higgins--drums; Etta Jones--vocals (4 and 5).

Title: Left Bank Encores | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Prestige Records

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