The early years of modern jazz were honored last night at the One Step Down when Sonny Stitt took the stand and immediately set a hectic pace for his quintet with an untitled number that recalled that world-traveling jam session, Jazz at the Philharmonic.

Stitt's nearly four decades of activity include work with JATP, Dizzy Gillespie's 1940 band, Miles Davis and Clark Terry. And although Stitt has put in much time as a single backed by rhythm section, he perhaps is at his best matched with another tenorist or altoist in a cutting contest.

Appropriately he was paired last night with saxaphonist George Ross (who also plays both instruments). And while Stitt had the edge as a master of the language of bop, Ross gave him a run for his money on Charlie Parker's "Bird Gets the Worm." Hugh Walker, a fine bop drummer, was unrelenting.

"The Shadow of Your Smile" provided Stitt with the opportunity to study and restudy a theme, even bursting out of the coda with still one more interpretation. Bassist Keter Betts came fluidly out of Mike Nock's nicely crafted commentaries at the keyboard.

Sonny Stitt remains at the One Step Down through Sunday.