Sonny Stitt (1924-1982)

Alto & Tenor Saxophone

Sonny Stitt (born in Boston 1924) was a remarkable instrumentalist who (although listed here under Alto Saxophone) was equally proficient on alto and tenor sax. Having heard Parker play early in the 40s and having come through the ranks of Billy Eckstine's bebop pioneering big band, it is easy to assume that Stitt was influenced by Charlie Parker and other young boppers of that generation. Although this may be true in essence, Stitt has never been a copyist and throughout his career and has maintained an individual style. Stitt himself has always maintained that his style, closely paralleling that of Parker's in harmonic and rhythmic aspects, was evolved independently of Parker. After his stint with Eckstine he joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band in 1946. He then fell victim to the decade's curse among young jazz men, heroin, and disappeared from view until 1949, when he reappeared and co-led a septet with Gene Ammons. This collaboration was to last until 1952 form which time onwards Stitt maintained his career performing and recording under his own name as well as appearing with others as a sideman. He appeared as a part of the Jazz at the Philharmonic package 1957-59 and toured in Europe with Granz. He also appears in the 1958 film of the Newport Jazz festival. In the 1960s his recorded output became less interesting but he returned to form in the 70s, especially as a part of the Giants of Jazz with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey. The year 1972 was a particularly triumphant one for the prolific sax veteran. Just as mainstream acoustic jazz was heading into a decade of decline, Stitt produced two warmly received hard-bop quartet records, Tune Up! and Constellation (which are now available on the single-disc Endgame Brilliance). The next album 12! backed by an old-hand rhythm section of Barry Harris, Sam Jones, and Louis Hayes which followed later in 1972, did nothing to change anyone's minds. Stitt had established himself as the champion of the hard-bop blowing session. He died from cancer in 1982.
Recommended reading with
Check out Sonny Stitt's page at emusic for free MP3 downloads
Recommended recordings
Sonny Stitt, Bud Powell and J.J. Johnson OJC 009-2
Kaleidoscope OJC 060-2
Sonny Meets Brother Jack (with Jack McDuff) OJC 703-2
Soul Classics OJC 6003-2
Prestige, First Sessions PRCD 24115-2
Soul People PRCD 24127-2
Night Letter PRCD 24165-2
Sonny Side Up Verve
Boss Tenors Verve
Duty Free Laserlight
Verve Jazz Masters Verve
Sonny Plays Bird WEA Atlantic
The Good Life (with Hank Jones) Evidence Music
Givin'Away the Store 32 Jazz records
Endgame Brilliance 32 Jazz Records
Best of the Rest 32 Jezz Records
12 32 Jazz Records
The Champ 32 Jazz Records