In the wake of my post last week on Sonny Stitt's 13 Varitone recordings between 1966 and 1971, I received an email from Bob Porter [pictured]. In addition to hosting Portraits in Blue and Saturday Morning Function on WBGO-FM, Bob also produced many great Prestige dates of the late '60s and '70s, including Stitt's Varitone sessions:
"Selmer had competition in the electronic saxophone space. Gibson made an electric saxophone attachment called the Maestro. Sonny Stitt used one after his Varitone endorsement deal ran out (he probably had a deal with Gibson as well). You can hear the Maestro on the three Prestige dates from 1971—Turn It On!, You Talk That Talk and Black Vibrations. Its sound wasn't very good.
"As for What's New!!! (1966), it was reissued later by Roulette as Stardust. The record sold well, and Stardust was the key track.
"There was more material from Don Patterson's Brothers 4 session. Patterson's Donnybrook (Prestige 7816) was a complete second album while the song Tune Up was placed on Patterson's Tune Up (Prestige 7852). [The entire session has been unified on the CD Sonny Stitt and Don Patterson: Brothers 4, which was linked in the original post]
"For my money, Sonny got his best electric tone on the 1969 dates—Brothers 4 and Night Letter. Engineer Rudy Van Gelder [pictured] had had plenty of experience by that time, and although he hated the Varitone's sound, he always did his best for the players.
"On You Talk That Talk (1971), Jug [Gene Ammons] (who also used a Varitone on his gigs at about this time) talked Sonny into not using it on the title track and on Body and Soul. When Sonny heard how good he sounded, I think that started him on the road to recovery, so to speak.
"I’m not sure that Sonny really used all the effects that were available with the Varitone. Occasionally he used the octave feature, but he never got too gimmicky. Louis Bellson’s big band had a two-man reed section at this time—Sam Most and Pete Christlieb, both of whom played the Varitone.
"While I like the albums I did with Sonny on electric saxophone, I can’t say I miss the sound."
Bob Brookmeyer. Vocalist Carol Sloane dated Bob, and last week she wrote fondly of their relationship and his musicianship. You'll find her post at SloaneView. [Pictured from left, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Rowles, Carol Sloane and Tommy Flanagan; photo courtesy of Carol Soane]
JazzRecordScene.com. If you're looking for Bob Brookmeyer on LP, Jeff Barr is selling quite a few of them—and hundreds more by other artists at his retail site here.
Blossom Dearie. If you're sitting around on Christmas after dinner looking for a quiet treat, London JazzWax reader Phil Andrews sent along this wonderful BBC 2 radio documentary on vocalist Blossom Dearie. It's as tender as can be. You'll find it here. If you don't fancy the news report that precedes the show, just slide the bar to 3:00.
Ray Charles 3. Here's another terrific mini-doc by Bret Primack on the release of Ray Charles: Singular Genius, the Complete ABC Singles—this time on Charles' move to country music...
Jazz movie soundtracks—hidden and found! Last week, I received an email from JazzWax reader Mel House, who stumbled upon a vast and affordable treasure at iTunes...
"I just discovered Jazz On Film Noir at iTunes. The album consists of seven complete movie soundtracks: Odds Against Tomorrow, Sweet Smell of Success, Anatomy of a Murder, Touch of Evil, Man With the Golden Arm, Streetcar Named Desire and Private Hell 36, my favorite by Shorty Rogers.
"So, here, in one album, you've got Shorty Rogers, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Duke Ellington, John Lewis, Chico Hamilton and other greats. All in all, there are 101 cuts—for 10.99!"
My two cents: If you want this album, download it fast. The last time I wrote about a 101-track set—the one covering much of John Graas' output—it mysteriously disappeared a few days later.
Brian Wilson. I'm a big fan of Brian Wilson's production prowess. If you are, too, you'll dig Michael Verity's post at the site of New York's WCBS-FM. Verity lists 10 songs that were produced by Brian Wilson that weren't by the Beach Boys. Fun reading and listening.
CD discovery of the week: Andy Timmons Band: Sgt. Pepper (Timstone) shouldn't work but it does—brilliantly. Timmons—a former member of the band Danger Danger and a session guitarist—simply created an instrumental-only hard-rock version of the Beatles' 1967 concept album. On paper, a tribute album of this nature would seem to be fraught with trouble. Songs from the Beatles' post-Revolver albums are notoriously difficult to interpret artistically, since most efforts wind up sounding like The Beatles on Broadway or worse. But Timmons pulls it off using his enormous technique to extract the original's energy and melancholy, wailing on tracks while adhering to the familiar melodies. It works because the words are already seared in our brains You'll find this one at iTunes and Amazon.
Oddball album cover of the week: How many oddities can you find in this cover? Let's count together: First, there's a couple happy to be listening to recorded music together. Obviously before iPod headphones. Second, they're both wearing white but content to lie on the floor. Clearly a first date. And third (and this is a good one): What's the name of the album? Right. And how many speakers do you see?