Thursday, December 25, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 62: Sonny Stitt

The mambo craze finds Sonny Stitt, and it's a match made in cielo. This is a blazing hot session, and of it, my favorite is "Cool Mambo," composed by Bill Massey. Mambo meets bebop, and my only regret is that there isn't a video of a couple of great Latin dancers, or a whole dance floor, dancing to this. Bebop is often considered the anti-dance music, but you couldn't prove it by this session. It's cool, it's hot, it's frantic, and it doesn't let up. In fact, it doesn't let up for the whole session.

Stitt is still developing that bebop big band sound that he and Gene Ammons developed, but here with different musicians, except for Ammons' right hand man, and with a sound all his own.

Providing the Latin underpinning for this session is Humberto Morales, here on congas but better known on timbales. He recorded with Dizzy Gillespie and with his own mambo orchestra, and is the author of How to Play Latin Rhythm Instruments. His percussion counterpart is Shadow Wilson, who was equally at home with swing and bebop, so he knows about dancing, and he knows about setting a rhythm for a virtuoso soloist.

The addition of Basie great Joe Newman to the ensemble adds another note to the test which says that no one told Sonny Stitt that you can't dance to bebop.

Speaking of dancing, I once saw Dave Brubeck at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival once. His set was sandwiched between a couple of rhythm and blues acts, and the audience was there to dance. Brubeck was playing "Take Five" and other undanceable rhythms, but the kids in the audience didn't know they were undanceable, and they were boogieing up a storm. I was close enough to see Brubeck's face, He was loving it. He was having the time of his life.

These were all issued on 78, and on various LPs -- a 10-inch Stitt album and a 10-inch mambo compilation. And later, on a couple of 7000-series LPs. All can be heard on Spotify.

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