The simplistic view of jazz history tells us that the great innovators make stylistic advances which are then imitated by lesser musicians, but in fact the greatest innovators are often too advanced to be easily emulated. The steps taken by Thelonious Monk, for example, were far too radical for most modernists to figure out; even the virtuosic brilliance of Bud Powell seemed more attainable. Charlie Parker’s stylistic advances were less revolutionary than Monk’s, but depended on a superhuman degree of inspiration (as had Louis Armstrong’s). Sonny Stitt was not only the first altoist to effectively adopt Bird’s new approach, he was extremely important for the others who followed because he showed that you didn’t have to have Parker’s otherworldly phrasing to be an effective modern jazzman. Critics have tended to give the admittedly derivative Stitt short shrift, but his peers have always rated him highly. Though not an original, he had a big sound, a mighty swing, stunning technique, and the rare ability to reel out chorus after chorus without becoming repetitive. Stitt followed Bird’s model closely on the early sides of this 1952-65 survey, but quickly became a soloist worth hearing in his own right. This lavish nine-CD set demonstrates the folly of overlooking such an excellent musician. Mosaic records are available by mail order only, by calling 203-327-7111 or contacting [email protected].