review: Sonny stitt meets sadik hakim
Sonny Stitt –Meets Sadik Hakim minces no words in describing its particulars as a preservation vessel for saxophonist Sonny Stitt’s first (and only studio) foray with the Muslim-monikered pianist. The date was a late-in-the-game and long overdue collaboration for the pair.
Back in the late-1940s when the latter answered to Argonne Thornton, both men moved in parallel bebop circles. Hakim gigged with Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. Stitt was in the midst of internalizing Parker’s innovations and devising a personal sound on alto that would frustratingly be a point of disparaging comparison for much of his career.
A quarter century later both men were shaggy dog veterans of the road. Stitt had played seemingly endless strings of dates as a single, moving between pick-up bands with a restless fluidity that could compromise consistency. Some proved worthy of his time and talent by sparking him to spates of brilliance; others were simply a necessary means to a paycheck. The Hakim-led rhythm section here definitely belongs in the first category.
Bassist Buster Williams remains to this day a first-call session man and his sound here, steeped as it is in de rigueur rubberized amplification that date stamps the proceedings to 1978, fills in the cracks while keeping things moving. J.R. Mitchell is a kindred comrade to Hakim, both in his relative discographical obscurity and the light, lissome touch he brings to his drums.
The laid back and airy approach on the rhythm end allows Stitt to ease up on the most competitive side of his personality, to slow down and in a phrase, smell the roses.
The program doesn’t offer much in the way of extraordinary fare: a couple of solid Hakim originals vie with choice tunes from the Cole Porter, Rogers & Hart and Monk songbooks along with a jointly-credited blues.
Stitt also throws in a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” reclining in the effervescent, optimistic melody and turning it into a convincing balladic bop vehicle in the process. Another highlight comes with Stitt’s sortie through “’Round Midnight”, his aerated alto essaying the theme with instantly endearing confidence. It echoes the inherent cool of the David Stone Martin cover illustration of the two principals rendered in charcoal and ink.
The disc includes alternates of that tune and three others, boosting the duration to a value-conscious hour of music. Five years later both Stitt and Hakim would be gone. The reality of their shared mortality makes the opportune logistics behind the music making appear all the more fortuitous.