Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
358

Sonny Stitt: Work Done

Samuel Chell By

Sign in to view read count Views
Sonny Stitt: Work Done 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 days as good days. His return to form in the early 1970s is one of jazz's more inspiring stories. Far from a swan song, Work Done, recorded at San Francisco's Keystone Korner in 1976, serves as a reminder of how a virtuoso performer leaves no unfinished business.

The key to both Stitt's life and music was control, and his extraordinary discipline is on abundant display throughout this set. By 1976 Stitt had learned how to pace himself, making his statements in a couple of choruses yet doing so with head-spinning technical command, satisfying emotional expressiveness, and willful structural wholeness. As for the program, if you've ever heard Stitt play a Bb blues, skip the first track. It's too much of more of the same, with Stitt's addiction to the tonic especially pronounced. But by the second tune, "Indiana," the featured soloist is feeling it, feeding off of the crowd's enthusiasm and a surprisingly close-knit, responsive rhythm section, anchored by Ray Drummond's potent bass.

"Constellation," an "I Got Rhythm" tune pushed to the speed limit, offers up more B flats, but the alternate tonguings, rhythmic displacements, and crisp articulations make them sound fresh and inspired. "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Stardust" both conclude with dazzling, unaccompanied cadenzas, the first played on tenor, the second on alto (a recording of "Stardust," incidentally, that probably deserves a place alongside storied ones by Armstrong, Shaw, Hampton and Desmond). The closer, "Loose Walk," is another Bb blues, but again Stitt infuses each Bb with energy and surprise for what proves to be an exhilarating finale to the set.

The audio and mix, though sub-par, are light years beyond some other currently available on-location Stitt recordings (steer clear of any Stitt session with "Ronnie Scott" or "Left Bank" in the title). And Sonny's glorious sound—so pure yet so full-throated, "embodied" and soulful—is not to be denied. Curiously, Stitt looks older and more haggard in the 1976 photos for Work Done than he does for the photos taken for Last Sessions, the 32 Jazz CD recorded days before his death in 1982—all the more evidence that in 1976 Stitt was playing through pain while renewing a commitment to a muse that was his alone. Stitt followers should take no small amount of consolation from the dedication and professional pride that led this dominating player back to the top of his game, even as a rapid, virulent cancer was about to take it away from him.


Track Listing: Barkan The Blues; Indiana; The Shadow Of Your Smile; Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be); Constellation; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life; Stardust; On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever); Loose Walk; Sonny Introduces The Band.

Personnel: Sonny Stitt: tenor and alto saxophones; Ed Kelly: piano; Ray Drummond: bass; Smiley Winters: drums.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: HighNote Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
[no cover]
Eight Classic Albums
Milestone Records
2012
buy
Don't Call Me Bird!
Don't Call Me Bird!
Fresh Sound Records
2008
buy
[no cover]
Move On Over...
Milestone Records
2007
buy
[no cover]
Stitt's Bits: The...
Prestige Records
2006
buy
Stitt’s Bits: The Bebop Recordings (1949-1952)
Stitt’s Bits: The...
Concord Music Group
2006
buy
It's Magic
It's Magic
Delmark Records
2006
buy
Charlie Parker Charlie Parker
sax, alto
Dizzy Gillespie Dizzy Gillespie
trumpet
Kenny Burrell Kenny Burrell
guitar
Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins
saxophone
Lester Young Lester Young
saxophone
Stan Getz Stan Getz
sax, tenor
Benny Golson Benny Golson
sax, tenor
Art Pepper Art Pepper
sax, alto

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.