Reference: FSRCD 467
Bar code: 8427328604673
Ten years before he made these recordings, during a brief 1959 sojourn in Los Angeles, Sonny Stitt, already weighed down by constant comparison with Charlie Parker, turned partly away from alto, which he loved, to the tenor saxophone. And, though from then on he customarily used both instruments, the alto remained his prime horn of choice, as is abundantly clear here. Cushioned by a solidly swinging West Coast rhythm section led by the sensitive piano of Lou Levy, he is a powerful, melodic, superlatively thoughtful and intense performer. This is Stitt at the top of his form, playing with slashing authority and a piledriver beat.
"Inevitable comparisons to fellow bop alto saxophonist Charlie Parker always dogged Sonny Stitt, and he was not appreciative of that ultimate assessment. So the title of this recording expresses his disdain for the rivalry and similarity, real or imagined. Fact is, Stitt's acumen was all his own, busting away from Parker's influence a good ten years before these 1959 sessions. Taken from the original albums Saxophone Supremacy and Sonny Stitt Swings the Most, he hooks up with a solid gold Hollywood, CA based rhythm team of pianist Lou Levy, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Mel Lewis. The three cannot be more supportive, viable, or musically adept in giving Stitt a launching pad to articulate his original notions. Most of these tunes are standards adapted to the bop format Stitt mastered, and his fluidity in playing melodies on classics "I Cover the Waterfront," "Just Friends," and "All of Me" makes you realize what an advanced, expert player he was. Somehow Stitt is able to shade every nuance with brawn, tackle each melody with perfection, and stamp his personal brand in the even most well-worn tune. The empathetic Lou Levy in particular is on his game, listening, supporting, comping, complementing, and driving Stitt to lofty heights, while Vinnegar and Lewis are spot-on with every note. There's a signature take of "It's You or No One," made popular by tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, but it easily could have been Stitt via this version. Two other pieces, "Lonesome Road" and "The Gipsy" demonstrate where Stitt's soulfulness might eclipse Parker's, while his atypical ballad treatment of "There Is No Greater Love" has him at his most patient and saintly. There are also five original compositions of the saxophonist, ranging from the upbeat basic bop blues of "Two Bad Days Blues," the frenetic, hot and heavy "Blue Smile," to a hip swinging "Jaunty" with an involved melody surrounding basic changes but not a basic improvisation. Also included are the "Yardbird Suite"-like "Blue Sunday," and "That's the Way to Be" a lighthearted tune, which purportedly is Stitt's first recording as a vocalist -- and he sounds great in a Babs Gonzales-cum-Nat King Cole style. On the final track, "The Way You Look Tonight," he plays tenor sax, an instrument he picked up a decade prior in response to the copy cat accusationists, and a horn he would play more (along with baritone on occasion) into the '60s. This is a precious document for Sonny Stitt, dubbed in the liner notes "a very good listening album." It is one every fan of his should own, and is highly recommended for others wishing to discover this magical musician."
Michael G. Nastos -All Music Guide
"Sonny Stitt had a difficult time coming out from under the shadow of Charlie Parker, even though Stitt's approach to playing the alto sax was only partially similar to the late giant. Stitt (who is incorrectly listed as playing tenor sax on the album jacket) is joined by a solid rhythm section consisting of pianist Lou Levy, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Mel Lewis. Most of this album is dedicated to standards. A loping treatment of "I Cover the Waterfront" is followed by his playful take of Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazybones." Also of interest are the leader's two originals, the frisky "Two Bad Days Blues" and the uptempo romp "Blue Smile," the latter of which has a fine solo by Levy but is prematurely faded as Stitt returns. This Verve LP was recorded during the same sessions that produced 'Sonny Stitt Plays the Most' and 'Sonny Stitt Blows the Blues', but this long out of print disc will be somewhat hard to track down."
Ken Dryden -All Music Guide
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