Today I will be reviewing an album from one of the greatest be bop players of all time, Sonny Stitt. In my opinion Sonny Stitt is highly underrated. He was more than just another be boper, his virtuosity and ferocity that he played with made him not just one of the best be bopers , but a must listen to jazz musician. This album is from a live performance and features an all star cast. Cedar Walton on piano, Herbie Lewis on bass, Billy Higgins on drums, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Richie Cole on alto, John Handy on alto and tenor, and Of course Sonny Stitt on sax. What intrigued me about this album was one, I need to listen to more Sonny, two not only is this album live but the group of musicians is top notch, and lastly the title and album cover is just flat out awesome.
The album begins with a Sonny Stitt original “Dig Dr. Woody” . This song is just a good old fashioned blues, bebop tune. it starts with just Walton and drums and Stitt then comes in with the melody. He takes the first solo and just destroys it. Nice combination of blues licks and bebop runs. Cedar Walton finds the perfect spots to comp and still be a part of the improvisational process which can be hard to do in bebop music. Walton then solos and uses all he has in his arsenal. A combination of blues, bebop, and motivic and rhythmic development in his solo. They come back to the head and conclude the song.
Next up is “Star Eyes” which is a tune composed by Gene De Paul and Don Raye. This one is a nice change of pace from the first tune as it has all horns involved and it has more of a swing feel. The melody has great accompaniment and they utilize all the horns very well. Sonny has a great solo followed by Cole. I especially love how he plays around with rhythmic ideas and interacts with his rhythm section. Both play with so much ferocity it’s hard to not tap your foot and be inspired. Hutcherson plays just a ridiculous run segueing into another solo. It just sounds ridiculous and is a great lead into the next soloist. We come back to the head and conclude the tune. Again, amazing that this all happened live and was pulled off so effortlessly.
As usual I will not delve into every tune as it could potentially be rather torturous for you . Therefore I will begin to summarize the rest of the album. Next up is the jazz standard “Everything Happens to me” which is a ballad and contains only a solo by Sonny Stitt. I would’ve loved to hear Cedar Walton take a couple chorus but other than that it sounds great. “The. Night Has A thousand Eyes” is another standard and contains a great solo by Cedar Walton. I love me some Cedar Walton. The more the better. Please pay attention to his accompaniment of Sonny throughout this album. He does a magnificent job throughout interacting and responding to Sonny’s melodic ideas.
“Ballad Medley” is what it sounds. It’s a ballad and all musicians take a solo. Other tunes that include solos by all include “Wee” and “Lover Man” I really enjoy it when all musicians take a solo. I love hearing the different instrumentation and how each soloist is challenged to say/ do something different from the ones who have already gone before them. Despite the larger than usual instrumentation it doesn’t feel overwhelming and these tunes just sound like great songs. And not, overly long, played out solos of bebop verbiage.
Overall this album was very enjoyable to listen to. With such an all star cast playing a wide array of different songs I found myself constantly inspired and wanting more. This is good old fashioned be bop being played at the highest level. This album is a must especially if you’re lacking in records from Sonny Stitt.