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Sonny Stitt: It’s Magic

Sonny Stitt’s It’s Magic (Delmark), an organ-trio date recorded in 1969, is less magic than simple sleight-of-hand. The record’s tone is set by Stitt’s first flat, desultory notes at the beginning of “Four.” After a bland statement of the head, he plays a couple of workmanlike tenor choruses. Absent is the dauntless intensity he could bring to the table when the mood struck him. His use of a Varitone device-an early signal processor that added an octave below the tenor’s normal register-might have been an inhibiting factor, although the extra octave is just barely audible when it can be heard at all.

Stitt is somewhat better on alto (on “Parker’s Mood” and “Just Friends,” for example), yet he still sounds less than fully engaged. Organist Don Patterson and drummer Billy James are decent, but they don’t give Stitt the kick in the backside he apparently needed. Occasionally he gooses one’s sense of wonder, as on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Too often, however, it’s like watching Houdini pull a rabbit out of a hat. It’s kind of cool, but you know he’s capable of much more.

Originally Published