Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves – Salt and Pepper – Impulse AS52/ Analogue Productions CIPJ 52 SA – SACD Stereo-only (1963), 35:42 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***½:
(Sonny Stitt, alto and tenor sax; Paul Gonsalves, tenor sax; Hank Jones, piano; Milt Hinton, bass; Osie Johnson, drums)
Sonny Stitt was among the most prolific saxophone players in jazz. With a discography approaching (give or take) 125 recorded sessions, Stitt was most inspired when challenged in jam or cutting sessions. Although heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, it could be said that he belonged more in the Lester Young school, whereas his partner on Salt and Pepper, Paul Gonsalves, fitted more into the Coleman Hawkins big full throated tenor school.
Putting these two sax masters together in a 1963 session backed by the cream of the crop rhythm section of Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, and Osie Johnson, was a sure thing. Recorded seven years after Gonsalves electrified the jazz community with his twenty seven chorus tour de force of “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue” at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival (that became so intense that as it progressed the rest of Ellington’s orchestra largely laid back while Gonsalves blew one of the most famous extended solos in the history of jazz,) it was a natural inclination to bring Stitt and Gonsalves together for the Sept 5, 1963 session.
Sonny and Paul matched tenors on four tracks before Sonny switched to alto for what is the most interesting track on the date, “Stardust.” Here they exchanged “fours” and Stitt’s obbligato alto meshed with Gonsalves’ tenor lead. It was the one chance for the two to set aside the jam session setting to get a chance to play ensemble.
The five tracks on this SACD are standards with the exception of the theme from The Lord of the Flies movie. This is largely a throw-away track that producer Bob Thiele thought might be an interesting inclusion, but does not hold up well in the long run.
The title track is a long blues in which each saxist gets many choruses to play two and four bar phrases. For sterep listening purposes, Paul is heard on the left speaker, while Sonny blows on the right. It is off to the races on this track.
“Sposin” brings down the energy as the tempo is more relaxed, and you get the chance to hear these titans share their soulful sides. Jones and Hinton also get to show their talents on a few choruses.
“Perdido” at over twelve minutes, is twice as long as any other track, and the two leaders nailed it on one take. Hank Jones gets to play with his effortless assurance, while later the two tenors get to “trade fours” with drummer, Osie Johnson.
I felt that the SACD mix, while still more than passable, was not up to the usual Analogue Productions standards. Rudy Van Gelder did such an exemplary job on the original CD issue, that the SACD, while still warm and crystalline doesn’t quite grab you with its improvement in acoustic quality. Either issue of Salt and Pepper, though, will still spice up your listening pleasure.
TrackList: Salt and Pepper, S’posin, Theme from Lord of the Flies, Perdido, Stardust
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of this late jazz icon.