358

Sonny Stitt: Work Done

By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Title: Work Done | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: HighNote Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Float Upstream CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Extremophile CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Sharpe
Published: September 26, 2017
Read The Source CD/LP/Track Review The Source
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Setembro CD/LP/Track Review Setembro
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Aqustico vol 2 CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Port Of Call" CD/LP/Track Review Port Of Call
by John Sharpe
Published: August 23, 2017
Read "Which Craft?" CD/LP/Track Review Which Craft?
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 28, 2016
Read "My Tongue Crumbles After" CD/LP/Track Review My Tongue Crumbles After
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "A Dark and Stormy Day" CD/LP/Track Review A Dark and Stormy Day
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2017
Read "Dyad Plays Jazz Arias" CD/LP/Track Review Dyad Plays Jazz Arias
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 12, 2016
Read "A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That" CD/LP/Track Review A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That
by James Nadal
Published: April 15, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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