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the Sonny Stitt (?) chord substitution


jdw
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I’ve got a recording with a fast 4/4 blues in B-flat, where occasionally a chorus starts off with this unusual progression:

F#7 B7 E7 A7 D7 G7 C7 F7 (each chord lasting two beats - equaling the first four bars - with the chord substitution then returning to a regular twelve bar blues at that point). I have seen/heard this same chord substitution used more often on bar One of the A section of “rhythm changes” (AABA in B-flat, when using the substitution above).

I have always heard this substitution referred to as the “Sonny Stitt substitution.” I don’t know if Stitt invented it or (more probably) just popularized it. Does anyone know of an early appearance of the “Stitt substitution” on record (or if it had another name or predates Stitt)? Other appearances of this substitution on record would be appreciated as well.    Thx

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This is interesting.

I've heard a lot of Stitt (even live), but I've never heard him use that sequence: A series of upward fourths landing on the keynote. It's like a fanfare, and I'm sure I'd remember that on a blues. Sonny, of course, used a small set of favorite runs that, for me, he overused. But he was an outstanding alto and tenor player, who always sounded good. "Boss Tenors", with Gene Ammons, was a fine moment.

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@1:49

1945, but I'm pretty sure there's earlier. I'd think Hawk, Tatum, definitely. I think there's a brief look at this progression in that Scott DeVeaux book? Monk did it a lot, maybe they picked it up from him, it's really just math, so look to anybody who knew their math like that, aka "vertical" players, as they used to be referred.

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Thanks JSngry,

I first heard that “I Got Rhythm” performance on a Smithsonian box set back when I was fifteen. I was in awe - Don Byas was (and is) amazing on it. I had forgotten that 1945 performance in terms of my “Stitt substitution” question in post #1. Thanks...

 

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The original question was about "stitt substitution" in general that were in this example heard on a blues.

A little research shows that they're more commonly known as "Monk changes", for whatever that's worth. But it definitely sounds like a "trick" used to weed out people who had not done their homework!

As far as playing them on a blues, landing on the V makes it real easy to drop down to the IV, nice and easy.

If I was going to look for it on a blues by somebody other than Stitt, I'd look for something by Gene Ammons, or maybe Lucky Thompson, one of those guys who had a deep bag of tricks, like cycling the keys for every chorus until you had played a chorus in all 12, that kind of thing. Skillertainment.

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Monk liked to go down chromatically with altered chords. Aaron Sachs brought in a transcription of Monk's version of Sweet and Lovely to show me what Monk did with it.

Theoretically, you could do the same thing with the OP's progression. Lee Konitz did the same thing on I Can't Get Started as a ballad.

Changing keys in a tune doesn't have to be only 'skilltertainment'. Bill Evans and Gene Puerling used it as an aesthetic choice. We can't play Days of Wine and Roses anymore without going up and down a minor third like Bill did. It creates an 'orgasmic effect' for the soloist, and many players have to smoke a cigarette after the experience...

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