Salt and Pepper is a stirring engagement between two masters of the tenor saxophone, Paul Gonsalves and Sonny Stitt. Assisted impartially by Hank Jones, Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson, they battle energetically on three standards — Perdido, S'posin' and Stardust — and with ferocity on the well-titled blues, Salt and Pepper.
The duel between tenor saxophonists often takes place early in the morning, but not at twenty paces, nor beneath mighty oaks on grass glistening with dew. The duelists remain within murderous range of one another, face to face or shoulder to shoulder, and the seconds are remaraably impartial. In fact, when one principal falls, the seconds tend to ignore him (to go on playing) until or unless he picks himself up again.
In style, the tenor duel really pre—dates the coffee-and-pistols-for-two era. It has its courtesies, but there is always a good deal of cut and thrust, of ferocious in-ﬁghting.
A more prolonged bit of business, it rather resembles an engagement between a couple of bravos armed with swords. Friends, accomplices and passers-by gather around to advise, prompt and encourage. Endurance is important and so is the ability to improvise new methods of offense and defense in desperate circumstances. Maybe unfamiliarity with the terrain - the ruts and holes of the particular bit of street or alley in which the ﬁght takes place - handicaps one more than the other. This unfortunate gets his foot in an unsuspected pothole, stumbles, and is promptly despatched. The little crowd disperses, discussing the affair:
“He sure was cut that time!”
“Yes, he goofed, man.”
The tenor sax duel is not new, but it was and is a good idea. It began a long time ago, but not before Napoleon had decided that ﬁghting with pistols was dishonorable. When Count Basie found himself with two immortals of the instrument in his band - Lester Young and Herschel Evans - he put the duel in a swinging orchestral context. Its success was such that he has, in one form or another, continued it ever since, his big hands always containing two contrasting tenor soloists. But years before Basie's innovation, Coleman Hawkins had battled all the available competition to a standstill in innumerable jazz sessions. If he couldn't find worthy rivals on the tenor, he would cut, carve or otherwise demolish the reigning virtuosi of the trumpet, trombone, alto and clarinet. He still does it frequently on records, surging in with power and authority to top whatever went before by no matter what talented and valiant soloist.
In the days when the jam session was a relatively private affair for professionals and initiates, rather than a publicly staged, money-making spectacle, the really creative work of the jazz musician used to begin after hours. In the logical course of events, the supremacy Hawkins established had to be challenged. The ﬁrst major challenger was Chu Berry, a marvelous musician with a big, mellow tone and exciting attack. His basic inspiration lay,' however, in the Hawkins style, and it was not until Lester Young came into focus with Count Basie that there was heard not merely a radically different approach to the instrument, but one backed by comparable artistry and inventive ability.
Lester's innovations preceded the bop revolution and resulted in wholesale emulation. It is probably not too much to claim that for a quarter of a century his style and that of Hawkins have represented the two poles of the tenor saxophone world. Only relatively recently has the magnetism of John Coltrane's music begun to exert a similar attraction.
At best, the stylistic divisions and terms applied to jazz are labels of convenience, or generalizations which permit all manner of exceptions. Thus it can be said of this record's two protagonists that Sonny Stitt belongs to Lester
Young's hemisphere and Paul Gonsalves to that of Coleman Hawkins. Yet each, like salt and pepper, has his own easily distinguishable characteristics. Paul has a round, smooth tone and deviously ﬂowing phraseology, Sonny an ebullient and vibrant tone, and a more immediately communicable rhythmic quality in his phrasing. Besides these signiﬁcant differences, there are contrasts enough in their overall approach to the ﬁull Þve numbers in this set. (For the stereo listener, there is no problem of identiﬁcation. Paul emerges from the left speaker, Sonny from the right.)
The aptly titled opener, Salt and Pepper, is a long blues performance affording each saxophonist adequate space in which to establish his personality. After sharing the ﬁrst two choruses, Paul blows for thirteen and Sonny for ﬁfteen. Then Paul returns for one more, and Sonny for another, before they go into a whirlwind chase of two- and four-bar phrases. Each seems reluctant to terminate this exchange, which is prolonged as ﬁrst one and then the other comes up with a provocative phrase.
S'posin', the pretty old standard, was a title proposed at the session by Sonny Stitt. In the ﬁrst chorus, he follows Paul, who then takes off for three more at an agreeably relaxed tempo. Milt Hinton and Hank Jones share the next, and Sonny has the concluding say with three choruses to himself.
The strange little chant of the children in the movie of Lord of the Flies had fascinated a. and r. man Bob Thiele, who brought the music to the date. It was at ﬁrst received with mixed feelings, but after a period of experiment this intriguing version resulted. “After you!” is by no means always a courtesy in jazz improvisation, but here, as in four out of ﬁve numbers in this set, Paul Gonsalves has the ﬁrst solo position.
Perdido is a familiar vehicle for extemporization and this long performance was the only take. The two tenors split the ﬁrst chorus and then take six each, Paul ﬁrst. Hank Jones has three, in which he expresses himself with his usual graceful assurance, and then the tenors trade energetic fours with Osie Johnson.
Stardust brought Sonny's alto out of its case, and his use of this instrument proves extremely effective both in the obbligato to Paul's tenor lead and in their exchange of fours during the last chorus. Paul's gift for warm, lyrical playing is best shown on this track, which also serves as a reminder of Sonny's prowess on the lighter horn. Honors even? You like plenty of salt and pepper?
Stanely Dance, associate editor Jazz Magazine
Original liner notes from Salt and Pepper, Impulse! AS-52
Paul Gonsalves - Tenor Saxophone
Sonny Stitt - Tenor Saxophone / Alto Saxophone
Hank Jones - Piano
Milt Hinton - Bass
Osie Johnson - Drums
1. Salt and Pepper (Stitt & Gonsalves)
2. S'posin (Denniker & Razaf)
3. Lord of the Flies (Theme) (Leppard)
4. Perdido (Tiol)
5. Stardust (Parish & Carmichael)
Recorded 5th September 1963 - NYC, USA