Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt - God Bless Jug and Sonny (Prestige 1973, 2001)

Saxophonists Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt were a dynamic duo from the 1950's through the seventies, playing meat and potatoes bop based jazz while touring widely and recording regularly. This recording is from Baltimore in 1973 and was one of their last as Ammons passed shortly after. There is a first class rhythm section in effect here: Cedar Walton on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. There are two massive blowing pieces to begin, the bop anthem "Blue n Boogie" and their own "Stringin' the Jug" which set the pace for relaxed bluesy improvisation with some unison passages and lengthy solo spots. This isn't so much a tenor battle (Stitt plays alto saxophone as well) but more of a cooperative endeavor where they a simple riff or phrase and take turns expanding and elaborating upon it. Each of them gets a solo spotlight on "God Bless the Child" which Ammons takes with a gospel furor and Stitt on an taut and concise version of "Autumn in New York." Everyone comes back together to take in the excellent Walton original "Ugetsu" and then an epic crowd pleasing blowout on"Bye Bye Blackbird" to wrap things up. Stitt and Ammons may have been scuffling a little bit during this period with acoustic jazz seemingly waning and jazz clubs closing. But this live album proves that they had quite a bit of energy to spare under the right conditions. God Bless Jug and Sonny -

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