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Sonny Stitt: Sax O'Bebop

AAJ Staff By

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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 RCA Victor. Stitt plays well, and although the Charlie Parker influence is obvious, Sonny is clearly his own man. However, the highlight of disc one is its many sparkling Bud Powell solos. Disc two introduces Stitt on tenor, starting with a 1949 quintet session with trombonist J.J. Johnson. Already, the elements of Stitt's mature style are in place, the robust tone, the technical mastery, the urgent swing. Disc two also features the essential classic quartet sides with Bud Powell.

Disc three is largely devoted to the beginning of Stitt's lifelong collaboration with his friend and partner, Gene Ammons. Fifty years after the fact, these performances are still delightful and exciting. Disc four has more Jug and Sonny, some hip quartet tracks, and an interesting Latin-flavored session arranged by Johnny Richards. These latter two discs showcase the emergence of Stitt as a genuinely great player with an easily identifiable, and subsequently influential, tenor sax style. Also included are some fine solos by Sonny on baritone sax.

Proper boxes aren't intended for audiophiles or completists. But Sax O'Bebop simply bursts at the seams with great music. It's practically irresistible.

Track Listing: Disc 1: One Bass Hit, Oop Bop Sh Bam, That's Earl Brother, Be Bop In Pastel, Fool's Fancy, Bombay, Ray's Idea, Serenade To A Square, Good Kick, Seven Up, Blues In Bebop, Epistrophy, 52nd Street Theme, Oop Bop Sh Bam, Royal Roost, Boppin' A Riff, Fat Boy, Everything's Cool, Webb City, Stardust, Third Song, Body And Soul, Ratio And Proportion. Disc 2: Red Shoes, Be Bop Blues, Royal Wedding, Fine And Dandy, Scamparoo, Suede Jacquet, Lion's Roar, Relaxin', Afternoon In Paris, Elora, Teapot, Blue Mode (2 takes), All God's Chillun Got Rhythm, Sonnyside, Bud's Blues, Sunset, Move, Hot House, Strike Up The Band, I Want To Be Happy, Taking A Chance On Love, Fine And Dandy (2 takes). Disc 3: Avalon, Later, Ain't Misbehavin', Mean To Me, Stairway To The Stars, Touch Of The Blues, Bye Bye, Blues Up And Down (3 takes), You Can Depend On Me (2 takes), Chabootie, Count Every Star, Nice Work If You Can Get It, There Will Never Be Another You, Blazin', Seven Eleven, To Think You've Chosen Me, After You've Gone, Our Very Own, S'Wonderful, Stringin' The Jug. Disc 4: Nevertheless, Jeepers Creepers, Imagination, Cherokee, Liza, Can't We Be Friends, New Blues Up And Down, The Thrill Of Your Kiss, If The Moon Turns Green, P.S. I Love You, This Can't Be Love, I Cover The Waterfront, Don't Worry 'Bout Me, Down With It, For The Fat Man, Splinter, I'm Confessin', Cool Mambo, Sonny Sounds, Blue Mambo, Stitt's It, Sancho Panza, Hooke's Tours, Opus 202, Loose Walk, Pink Satin.

Personnel: Sonny Stitt, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax; Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Willie Wells, Russell Jacquet, Miles Davis, Bill Massey, Joe Newman, John Hunt, trumpets; J.J. Johnson, Bennie Green, Eph Greenlea, Matthew Gee, Al Outcalt, Kai Winding, trombones; Don Elliott, mellophone; Gene Ammons, tenor sax, baritone sax; Ray Abrams, Morris Lane, George Berg, Sid Cooper, tenor sax; Cooper, Jerry Sanfino, flute; Eddie DeVerteuil, Leo Parker, Serge Chaloff, baritone sax; John Collins, guitar; Milt Jackson, vibes; Al Haig, Bud Powell, Bill Davis, Sir Charles Thompson, John Lewis, Kenny Drew, Duke Jordan, Charles Bateman, Junior Mance, Clarence Anderson, John Houston, Horace Silver, Al Williams, piano; Ray Brown, Al Hall, Jimmy Glover, Al Lucas, Nelson Boyd, Curley Russell, Tommy Potter, Gene Wright, Earl May, Ernie Shepard, Charles Mingus, bass; Kenny Clarke, Wallace Bishop, Dave Heard, Shadow Wilson, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Jo Jones, Wesley Landers, Teddy Stewart, Don Lamond, drums; Humberto Morales, Santa Miranda, percussion; Gil Fuller, Teddy Williams, Larry Townsend, vocals.

Title: Sax O'Bebop | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Proper Records


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