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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Sonny Stitt

Work Done

HighNote HCD 7130



  1. Barkan the Blues
  2. Indiana
  3. The shadow of Your Smile
  4. Lover Man
  5. Constellation
  6. You Are the Sunshine of my Life
  7. Stardust
  8. On a Clear day
  9. Loose Walk
  10. Sonny Introduces the Band


Sonny Stitt - Tenor & Alto Sax

Ed Kelly - Piano

Ray Drummond - Bass

"Smiley Winters" - Drums

Sonny Stitt was one of the ‘giants’ of the saxophone, who could play any tune in any key and often did so, sometimes at 100 MPH! Like Zoot Sims and many of his contemporaries, he was happy to wander about the USA and Europe playing with whichever rhythm section was in residence at the ‘gig’ in question. This was OK for Sonny, but often the rhythm section did not realise what an immense task they had taken on and shied away next time he was in town. He was not very tolerant of musicians who were not up to something nearing his standard!

Born in 1924 of a musical family, his brother was a concert pianist, his style is very reminiscent of Charlie Parker, although Stitt maintained throughout his life that he had developed independently from "Bird", they were of course contemporaries. He worked with JATP from 1957 to 1959 and no doubt this experience gave him the ability to communicate with any audience, both from a musical point of view and in his presentation of his work. He was a big favourite of Jazz Festival audiences and can be seen in the film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

These particular track were recorded live in 1976 at the Keystone Corner, in San Francisco and have never been previously issued. We should be grateful therefore to HighNote records for this release. It is archetypal Sonny Stitt, the hard driving tone and phenomenal technique are in evidence from the opening blues to the closing one. It is quite interesting that the last track is called Loose Walk and is credited to Stitt as a composer, but most jazz people will recognise it as Blues Walk!

The rhythm section for this session are well up to the task Ed Kelly is a sympathetic accompanist and an excellent soloist, Ray Drummond is a fine Bass player Smiley Winters a capable drummer. Sonny was famous for his idiosyncratic tags on the end of tunes, I am convinced that he did not always know how they would finally be resolved, but they are wonderfully exciting things to listen to. Two good examples are to be heard on Indiana and On a Clear Day.

The Shadow of Your Smile is played a little faster than you might expect, in fact it is medium tempo swinger, with Stitt at his most creative, creating wonderful lines on this Johnny Mandel composition. If only some of today’s student musicians would listen to this instead of all sounding like John Coltrane clones! This track also has a fine piano solo from Ed Kelly.

The next four numbers are on Alto, although there is no mention of this on the cover, Stitt was just as comfortable and authoritive on either instrument. Charlie Parker’s Constellation is also played breakneck speed, which the rhythm section copes with well. An interesting and exciting version of Stevie Wonder’s, You Are the Sunshine follows, it shows that even at this stage of his career he was still looking for new material for his repertoire

The reading of Stardust is just about as good as I have heard, this tune which is not particularly easy to play, comes with a fascinating ending. Back to Tenor then for a lovely mid-tempo On a Clear Day.

It is amazing that music as good as this has laid on a shelf since 1976, but three cheers to HighNote for making it available now. Highly Recommended!

Don Mather


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