Here’s some real craftsmanship. Let me set the scene.
December 17, 1957. There’s snow on the ground, Christmas shoppers are flowing in and out of Macy’s, Gimbal’s, and the sidewalks of Manhattan are humming. Jammed in a small booth at Nola Recording Studio are Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Persip, and brothers Ray and Tommy Bryant. This is like having the 1995 Chicago Bulls crowded into a corner booth at the local diner.
One of their tracks, “I Know That You Know” starts out with the horns in harmony trading space with blazing fast drum solos. Sounds like a standard bebop tune, typical of the jazz scene at the time. All about technical acrobatics and rapid-fire and often incomprehensible melodies (see Eternal Triangle from the same album).
When the intro is over, there’s a rimshot and then the band drops away completely.
Imagine jazz improvisation like a group of musicians running down the road together, laughing, dancing. In this song, they are like the boys in Stand By Me, running across a railroad trestle bridge over a huge canyon.
Well, when the band drops away for the first solo, Sonny Stitt doesn’t skid to a stop and look at the emptiness below him. He jumps. No, he god-damn soars. A few seconds later, the band lays down a single beat, a single railroad tie. His feet touch and he takes off again, twisting and laughing into open air.
Stitt crosses the canyon like this, bounding from one beat to the next in a breathtaking stop-time solo that has to be heard. Spend the 99¢ and download it. If you’re wearing a hat, fasten the chinstrap.