My Favorites (Jazz): “Ringin’ In” - Sonny Stitt and Jack McDuff

It’s pretty much impossible to find a bad solo of Sonny Stitt (Edward Boatner, Jr.) because his solos seem to roll off his fingers like a great speech rolls off the tongue of a good orator.

The solo on this 1962 track was the archetypal Sonny Stitt solo that is completely accessible and even more so for me. I say that because I am a tenor saxophone player and this is one of the recordings where Sonny Stitt chooses to play tenor saxophone instead of alto. He chose the tenor after the mid-fifties partly because of the constant comparison to Charlie Parker.  Aside from a hard driving swing laid down by organist Jack McDuff and drummer Art Taylor, Sonny Stitt goes deep into the blues. He of course displays his vast knowledge of the bebop lexicon yet nevertheless brings it back home with some gut-bucket blues.
When I was first learning how to play jazz this recording helped me immensely. The sheer number of bebop licks and blues phrases were enough to keep me practicing for months.  I even studied Jack McDuff's solo and took some of his lines.  It amazed me back then how he could walk the baseline with his feet on the pedals, play the chords, and solo all at the same time.
Some of the best stuff happens at the end when Sonny Stitt and Jack McDuff are trading fours. There are some great blues licks in this exchange. As I tell my students Charlie Parker may have created the language of bebop but Sonny Stitt made it easier for us to hear. If you want to learn the language of bebop the best way to go is to start with Sonny Stitt then go to Charlie Parker, you will hear so much more.
My uncle gave me a recording of several Sonny Stitt records when I was young. I listened to them intently and tried to get as much language as I could. It felt good to finally be able to play over the changes.  The challenge then became creating my own sound.  That of course would take a bit more time and listening to some more of the greats.

Sonny Stitt – Tenor Saxophone
Jack McDuff - Organ
Art Taylor - Drums
Eddie Diehl – Guitar
Ray Barretto - Conga

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