General opinion has it that Sonny Stitt always stood in Charlie Parker’s shadow. That, however, is unjustifiable. The legendary jazz critic Nat Hentoff wrote, for example: “Sonny has been one of the wholly involved players, well known and admired for his soul and the earthiness of his message only by musicians who feel and play like he does and by that part of the jazz audience that is most moved by naked, open emotion. He has made his mark with them as an honest yea-sayer who can’t help but play what he knows and feels.”
The present recording is proof of this — a session which shouldn’t really have worked out so well. Sonny Stitt’s alto saxophone presides over a seven-man-strong brass group, and although the prospect of a Sonny Stitt big band does not sound too promising initially, this rendezvous is really enjoyable, thanks in part to Stitt’s superb solos. At this time he was on the top of his form and he plays freely over the basis provided by the brass section consisting of Blue Mitchell, Jimmy Cleveland and Willie Ruff. The arrangements by Tadd Dameron and Jimmy Mundy are closely-knit yet offer enough room for swing and a generous pinch of soul. Special highlights are contributed by the unknown, female organist Perri Lee — little groovy additions that are really successful and infuse the arrangements with a slender sound and sparkle. Although Sonny Stitt & The Top Brass may not stand in the limelight like Boss Tenors or Salt And Pepper, it is certainly on a par with these from an artistic point of view.
This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head. More information under www.pure-analogue.com. All royalties and mechanical rights have been paid.
Recording: July 1962 in New York City
Production: Ahmet Ertegun