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Givin’ Away the Store: Three from 32

By BK

Joel Dorn and the folks at 32 Records continue in their busy ways. The ambitious label’s latest endeavor is called "Givin’ Away the Store". Drawing from the catalogs that they purchased from Muse Records, 32 put together three compilations of the works by Pat Martino, Woody Shaw and Sonny Stitt. Already through the individual album releases of these three artists, 32 Records has re-invigorated Martino’s career and introduced Shaw and Stitt to a whole new generation of listeners. To complement the individual releases of these three talented artists, the "Givin’ Away the Store" compilation series will serve as a catalyst to delve further into their catalogs. Joel Dorn explains: "Conventional record business wisdom tells you not to put all the best cuts you have by an artist on one CD. The fear is that if people can get all the goodies on one album, they won’t buy the albums from which those selections came. That kind of thinking only holds true for the work of inferior musicians. Far from the case here."

Guitarist Pat Martino’s story is one of the most heartfelt in music today. After rising to incredible popularity in the 1970s, the Philadelphian suffered a brain aneurysm and subsequently dropped out of the music scene. Through a miraculous recovery, Martino learned to play the guitar once again and is now recording in the studio and playing live. This compilation is taken from Martino’s incredible 1970s work, which covers the many stages of Martino: the bebop of "The Visit" from Footprints (1972); the soul jazz of "Single Action" from Willis…..with Pat (1978); the ethereal duet with Gil Goldstein of "You Don’t Know What Love Is" on 1976’s We’ll Be Together Again, the endless live soloing of the interpretation of the popular pop song "Sunny" from 1974’s Head and Heart (This 32 album is actually a combination of Martino’s Live(1972) and Consciousness(1974)) ,and the post-bop that Martino became know for on "Benny Golson’s "I Remember Clifford" and the original "Slipback" from 1999’s Comin and Goin’ (A combination of Exit(1976) and The Return(1987)). There is also an example of Martino’s 1990s work with a version Miles Davis’ "Blue in Green" and his own "Nightwings" from 1999’s Mission Accomplished (A combination of Nightwings(1996) and Interchange(1994)). The two songs show his bebop and fusion sides and more importantly, that Pat is alive and well in his post aneurysm era.

Saxophonist Sonny Stitt is a true jazz legend. During the 1940s-1950s, he was a key player in bringing be-bop to the forefront. Although he played the alto saxophone magnificently, Stitt was one of the early musicians who was responsible for making the tenor saxophones one of the most popular jazz instruments. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, tenor saxophonists were arising left and right. They owed a debt of gratitude to Stitt. Although the majority of these selection were taken from recordings that occurred in the last ten years of Stitt’s life, they are far from inferior for the Stitt played powerfully right up to his 1982 death. The selections were taken from The Champ (1973), Endgame Brilliance, 12!(1972), The Last Sessions(1982), My Buddy(1975), and In Style(1981). Some high points are "Constellation" which, was originally written by Charlie Parker. During Stitt’s early days, he was often compared to Parker, but by the time of this recording, he had developed his own style and this was simply a tribute to the master. More fitting tributes are the songs "You Can Depend On Me" and "Exactly Like You". These songs were recorded by Stitt in 1975 in honor of his recently deceased friend, Gene Ammons. Stitt was a true be-bopper and rarely strayed far from the style (except for an occasional funk or blues number). This album is a testament to Stitt’s love and ability. In the liner notes, Joel Dorn spoke of Stitt: "He could play anything and, when he was of mind to, could get around that horn as well as anyone whoever picked one up……If you’re smart, you’ll use what you hear as a table of contents to the body of work of one of the all time truly bad, bad, double bad practitioners of the art."

Trumpeter Woody Shaw was disregarded by fans throughout his brilliant playing career. Unfortunately, like so many talented artists throughout history, Shaw’s work is finally being praised posthumously. The compilation starts out with a bang with "Cassandranite" which appeared on the 32 Jazz album, 1997’s Last of the Line. This 2 CD set contains two albums: 1965’s Cassandranite and 1975’s Love Dance. The tune features tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Larry Young ( a rare non-Hammond B3 appearance), bassist Ron Carter and drummer Joe Chambers. Another track from the album, "Tetragon", also came from Cassandranite but has pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Paul Chambers subbing in. These two tracks are two of Shaw’s earliest recordings and capture him with an incredible supporting cast. As one would expect with this crew, the music is similar of the modal/free-bop that was prevalent in the 1960s. The track from 1975’s Love Dance, "Sun Bath", has Shaw exploring the funk-fusion side of jazz. There is another 32 Jazz 2 CD set called Two More Pieces of the Puzzle (1998) which contains 1976’s Concert Ensemble and 1977’s The Iron Men. "Obsequious" was taken from the 1976 live album that was recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival (with trombonist Slide Hampton and saxophonist Frank Foster) while "Symmetry" was a cut from The Iron Men. This album and cut have Shaw teaming up with the great Chicago avant-gardists, alto saxophonist Anthony Braxton and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. For 1986’s version of Sonny Rollins’ "Solid" (from the album of the same title), Shaw is playing some straightforward be-bop jazz. This song also highlights the relatively unknown Peter Leitch on guitar. After hearing his playing, the immediate question to arise: why is he unknown? Like Shaw, Leitch is yet another example of the hordes of talented players who slip through the cracks of popular praise.

In one CD’s length, the many sides of Shaw are revealed – the avant-garde, the bebop, the hard-bop and the fusion; the live and the studio; the old and the new. This is true for all of these compilations (except for Sonny Stitt, which does not cover a long time period but does manage to cover many phases). As Joel Dorn intended, these are not necessarily an each of these artists’ definitive collections but they do serve as an impetus to further explore their works. This especially apparent with Woody Shaw, for within a nine song CD, the trumpeter’s breadth of skill and style was well represented and now I am going to seek out each and everyone of the albums featured on the collection. The crew at 32 should be given credit for their excellent work.