A1 Constellation 5:00 A2 Ghost Of A Chance 4:46 A3 Webb City 3:30 A4 By Accident 6:42 B1 Ray's Idea 3:53 B2 Casbah 5:02 B3 It's Magic 5:11 B4 Topsy 5:35
Bass – Sam Jones Drums – Roy Brooks Piano – Barry Harris Tenor and alto saxophone – Sonny Stitt
Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 - resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag&Rename.
Ira Gitler's original liner notes say of this music that it is "aeration for the brain and tonic for the spirit." And also that "It is the residual harmonic deposit left in the ear which makes you aware of the contour of the sculpted line." Ira should really see a doctor about that.
Glancing at the date and album title of this selection, you might be forgiven for assuming this would be a funky soul jazz date. Far from it, this is a return to Sonny Stitt's bop roots when he carried the torch for Charlie Parker, from whose composition the album takes its name. Stitt had made one previous record for the short-lived Cobblestone imprint, "Tune Up", which is in the same vein and also very good. But I prefer this one, perhaps largely due to the interplay between Stitt and drummer Roy Brooks, who has a very melodic approach to his instrument. Stitt retains Sam Jones (bass) and Barry Harris (piano) from the rhythm section of the previous album, with Brooks replacing Alan Dawson. He made yet another amazing bop record, The Champ for Muse Records (who took over the Cobblestone catalog), adding Duke Jordan and trumpeter Joe Newman, who provided some lively interplay between the horns that this album lacks. But the lean sound of this quartet is instantly charming and every track is a winner (It's Magic is kind of drippy, but still good). While the album revisits works from seminal composers like Bud Powell and Tad Dameron, the one original composition on the album is a revelation. "By Accident" is the proverbial "song written in a cab on the way to the studio", sort of - I believe the liner notes refer to it as a nameless composition Stitt had been working on that day when a traffic accident delayed his arrival to the studio. The longest cut on the record, it allows time for some extended solos. Interestingly, Brooks doesn't take a solo on the entire record until trading fours with Sonny on the last track, "Topsy."
Unlike rock and pop music criticism (which is, alas, mostly "people who can't write, talking to people who can't speak, for an audience that can't read"), jazz music criticism has a lot of writers I respect. I don't actually know the work of Samuel Chell (below) however, nor do I agree with his dismissal of pretty much all of Stitt's 60s work, of soul jazz in general, and the typical musically xenophobic attitude common to many jazz fans. But if you can put that aside his review of this album for its only CD release, paired with Tune Up! and released only in Europe, is pretty accurate.
Tune Up! + Constellation
For the better part of the new milennium these two 1972 dates have been the most sought-after Stitt recordings, bringing premium collector' prices for the out-of-print single-CD compilation of both sessions, Endgame Brilliance (it's more economical if not practical to locate the two separate LPs on Cobblestone). Though still not available domestically, this latest compilation can be ordered directly from the Spanish distributor (freshsoundrecords.com), with liner notes (in English) written for this new 2007 edition. These were the recordings that opened the eyes of many critics and jazz followers who didn't know what some of us apparently did: that Stitt had been Bird and more in the mid to late '40s—the complete saxophonist, formidable pyrotechnician, master of the vocabulary of bebop on all three horns— and that he was still capable of playing that way if not better. The only thing different about these two sessions is that Stitt decided to stop wallowing in the sounds of the late 1960s and beyond: he stripped his horns of the Selmer Varitone attachment, an electronic gadget that had been disguising his majestic sound; he closed the book on his days as a tenor "soul and funk artist"; he bid farewell to the Hammond B3 organ, his primary source of accompaniment throughout the '60s. In other words, he simply "got mad," went into the studio, and played glorious bebop—even using both horns played at different tempos on the same tune ("I Got Rhythm"). Contrary to some views, these two sessions are not Stitt's "best" recordings, but they're close enough. Most importantly, they inspired others to keep the faith during the long years of funk and fusion, Motown and disco that were to follow. - Samuel Chell (allabout jazz dot com)
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