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JLP 71

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Sonny Stitt (as, ts -#) Paul Weeden (g) Don Patterson (org) Billy James (drs)

New York City; April 4, 1962


  1. Low Flame (4:52) # (Sonny Stitt)

  2. Put Your Little Foot Right Out (5:22) # (traditional)

  3. Cynthia Sue (5:56) (Paul Weeden)

  4. Donald Duck (4:35) (Don Patterson)


  1. Close Your Eyes (3:41) (Bernice Pethere)

  2. Silly Billy (4:53) # (Sonny Stitt)

  3. Baby, Do You Ever Think of Me (2:52) (Sonny Stitt)

  4. Fine and Dandy (7:52) (James – Swift)

   They well called “modernists” then, back in the 1940s, when they burst with vigor and vitality onto the jazz scene, but developments of the late 1950s and early ‘60s would seem to mark them as relative traditionalists. The truth is that they were swimming in the mainstream way back then. Despite the innovations in their playing, saxophonists like Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons, Wardell Gray and Sonny Stitt were strongly liked to men of the previous period, like Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. The tradition of sound, swing and soul was being carried on in good horns. That assertive, uplifting drive was always there, in music that could always make you feel just fine – something in spite of yourself.

   Sonny Stitt first came to attention as an alto player. Musicians who first heard him immediately noted his similarity to Charlie Parker. And actually it was back in 1943, when Stitt was just nineteen and with the Tiny Bradshaw band, that he heard Bird’s earliest records (made with Jay McShann just a year or two before) and became a disciple on the spot. When he recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1946, however, Sonny revealed that he had a recognizable voice of his own, even though strongly within the Parker idiom. Parker, too, was thoroughly grounded in jazz basics; so you could say that Stitt comes from good musical stock.

   When Sonny took up the tenor sax, in 1949, he showed an affinity for certain aspects of Lester Young’s style, but on the larger horn his own personality was more readily accessible to the average listener. From the mid-‘50s on, he has been heard on both instruments, to the delight of his ever-increasing audience. Jazz fans have had many pleasant arguments about whether they enjoy him more on one horn or the other. The best answer is that the entire expression is totally Stitt and that either way is winning one. For example, the alto tracks here happen to outnumber the tenor, five to three. But I haven’t broken it down into how many minutes are allotted to each – nor is anyone else at all likely to bother to do so. When listening to Sonny, there is no need to get technical in any way, let alone statistical.

   The trio which backs Stitt here is his regular working group, with which he has been appearing in clubs since early ’62. The instrumentation is of course not an orthodox rhythm section, but it is fits superbly into Sonny’s basically blues-oriented groove. Guitarist Paul Weeden is Indianapolis-born and clearly a member of the Wes Montgomery school, which is not a bad place to be at all. His amplified sounds back Stitt most comfortably. The organ has had a sharp surge of popular it in jazz during the past few years, but is is not always the best of accompanying instruments. Fortunately, however, Don Patterson doesn’t try to overpower everyone or everything, playing for Sonny is a subdued yet swinging manner. Drummer Billy James rounds out a thoroughly well-knit group (not surprisingly, it turns out that these three were together as a working unit for some time before Sititt had the happy idea of hiring them en masse).

   As befits a working-group date, the album reflects the leader in a variety of attitudes. The blues are definitely here, of course, with the sad, slow-cooking Law Flame and the medium-up refer Silly Billy (both played on tenor) and the relaxed Donald Duck on alto. Stitt worked with Miles Davis for a time in 1961, and from that association comes the doubly-traditional Put Your Little Foot Right Out – originally a traditional children’s game song, but by now firmly a part of the modern jazz tradition.

   That one is the third tenor track. The remaining numbers, all played on alto, encompass the soaring, minor-key beauty of Close Your Eyes; the swiftly swinging Fine and Dandy (Sonny first did this on tenor with Bud Powell in 1950); Stitt’s own tender, pleading ballad by Weeden, Cynthia Sue, on which guitar and alto blend beautifully as one instrument.

   Once, while being interviewed, Sonny was watching one of those teen-age television bandstand shows, and was moved to an outspoken expression of contempt. “I don’t dig it at all,” he said. “I think these kids are being short-changed. They’re not getting the best out of music.”

   That’s Sitt, the critic. And Stitt, the musician, backs him up by making sure that no one need ever feel short-changed by him, that you always get the best out of music when he is playing. And that’s a lot to be able to say about any musician!


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Recording Engineer: BILL STODDARD (RKO recording studios)

Mastered at Plaza Sound Studios

Album design: KEN DEARDOFF


This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 971) and Monaural (JLP 71) form.


235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York

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