Jazz Review: Sonny Stitt Plays Amigos

January 26, 2019

Sonny Stitt wasn't a Latin jazz musician. He wasn't from Cuba, Hispaniola, Central America, or Brazil - he was an American jazz saxophonist. But that didn't stop him from recording the album "Stitt Goes Latin".


Probably, Stitt didn't actually "go Latin", because he spent basically his whole career, as Wikipedia says, in the "bebop/hard bop idiom". His style was similar to Charlie Parker's, but unlike "Bird", Stitt lived quite a long time for a jazz musician - to be exact, he lived 58 years (Wikipedia), and he died of cancer, not - at least directly - of drugs or alcohol.


His album "Stitt Goes Latin" has no drummer, but it does have a couple percussionists. On the album, Stitt is on alto saxophone/tenor saxophone, Thad Jones is on trumpet, Chick Corea is on piano, Larry Gales is on bass, Willie Bobo is on the timbales, Carlos Valdes is on the congas, and Osvaldo Martinez produces the "percussion". According to Wikipedia, Martinez's "percussion" includes the cowbell, maracas, and the "jawbone".

"Amigos": see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIZCoCQG6t0


The tune "Amigos" has a title that sounds like that of a pop hit - but it wasn't. It was actually composted by Sonny Stitt himself. (Wikipedia)


There's nothing particularly unique about the tune or the recording, but still it is fairly original, foot-tapping, and atmospheric. However, the tune doesn't have a lot of "meat"; there's no bridge, which would be fine if it was a bebop tune, but if you're going to "go Latin", you ought to actually "go Latin" and not stick to old, lazy bebop traditions. The bridge sounds like chaos that wasn't arranged or planned; but the rest of the tune isn't like this.


The first soloist is trumpeter Thad Jones. He begins in an impressive manner but doesn't keep this up in every phrase he plays, and quite often on this recording he plays questionable notes. Chick Corea, the pianist, who's very well known in jazz circles nowadays, must have been much younger back when Stitt went Latin, and not so well-known (two sources say this album was recorded in 1963 - the YouTube video and Wikipedia). Corea's solo comes between Jones' and Stitt's solos - which is not standard in jazz.


Sonny Stitt's solo is good, although it could have been louder and longer. After his solo, they close with the tune, played over good Latin percussion. Unfortunately, the bridge is again improvised and there is no organization or attempt at any arrangement of this section.


This review may sound critical, but overall the recording is a good recording - why else would we review and recommend it?




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBcTtccbFpU - "Are You Listening?" by Sonny Stitt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AbYgPtDzZ0 - "Bossa Nova Ova" by Thad Jones







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