Sonny Stitt

Just in Case You Forgot How Bad He Really Was

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Although Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz label mostly concentrates on repackaging reissues from the Muse catalog, there have been some important discoveries. This 1997 CD has a previously unreleased Sonny Stitt club appearance that took place in San Francisco's Keystone Korner in September 1981. It is a special all-star concert in which Stitt splits his time between tenor and alto and is joined by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Herbie Lewis, drummer Billy Higgins, and (on a few numbers) vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, altoist Richie Cole, and John Handy on alto and tenor. Stitt, a master of the bebop vocabulary, was not an innovator, but he was a fiery competitor who could blow most musicians off the stand when he chose to. In this case, he had a lot of respect for Cole and Handy, but still played at his best, just in case. The CD is mostly a showcase for the leader, who is well featured on the ad lib "Dig Dr. Woody," "Everything Happens to Me," and "Laura." Other than a five-song ballad medley that features each of the saxophonists plus Walton and Hutcherson, not that much is heard from Handy, while Cole (who gets in a few good licks) is generally overshadowed by Stitt. Other highlights include lengthy renditions of "Lover Man" and "Wee." Sonny Stitt recorded scores and scores of bop-oriented sessions throughout his productive career, but his fans will still be happy that 32 Jazz has added such a strong date to his discography. Recommended.

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