Gillespie, Rollins, Stitt: “Sonny Side Up” (1957) Verve

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Track Selection: The Eternal Triangle (Stitt)

Long and very fast (Podiatrist Advisory – foot-tap in moderation: do not exceed recommended number of taps per listening session)

Artists

Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) Sonny Stitt (alto sax) Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) Ray Bryant (piano) Tommy Bryant (bass) Charlie Persip (drums) recorded  NYC, December 19, 1957

I don’t know Stitt’s history well but he replaced Coltrane with Miles Davis a couple of years later, in 1960, only to be replaced quickly himself by Hank Mobley due to issues with alcohol. In Stitt’s 1982 obituary, the NY Times declared “his style was likened to Charlie Parker”.  To be likened to the Bird is no mean achievement for any musician. Perhaps to escape this alto legacy, Stitt often took to the tenor, which he plays here with the same speed and inventiveness.

Music

Music at a pace that makes you check you haven’t inadvertantly switched your TT to 45rpm. Stitt, the true disciple of Charlie Parker, similarly with boundless energy and in 1957 at the age of 33, lots still to come. Rollins in peak of form soon after recording Saxophone Collossus and his releases for Blue Note.

Dizzy sings a little on “Sunnny Side of the Street” but fortunately, other than that, sticks to playing eloquently, with age and maturity on his side. Ray Bryant maintains his well deserved reputation on piano, and Rays brother, Tom Bryant and Charlie Persip, motor away below stairs, but the action is handed to the tenors to battle it out.

Stitt is like a runaway express train that’s just passed signals at red, and gathering even more speed, demanding Rollins’ train keep up. The Stitt composition Eternal Triangle is exhausting, but exhilarating, as the tenors trade licks to see who can out-do the other. In some of the final rounds, the speed is literally frightening. Usually I have a preference for ballads, melancholy and the minor key, but this is fast and tight playing and I have to say, I like it. Rollins, I judge, is not quite as fleet as Stitt, but of richer tone and weight, which is no less a pleasure to be enjoyed.

Vinyl: Verve Clef original US pressing MGV 8262,  140gm vinyl

Only my second original Verve. That cost me a few quid as well. Deep groove and a lively, natural pressing, full of life. Supervised by Norman Granz, legendary producer who created Verve. Alas no one is given credit for a fine recording. Van Gelder, Bock, Dowd and DuNann would not have approved. Verve house engineer in this period was Val Valentine (hat tip poster George) though this recording does not feature in Valentine’s discography list.

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Collectors Corner

I like visiting Ealing. A pleasant suburb of West London, there are some good Polish deli’s there, and an interesting branch of the Wickes Home Improvement Centre. OK, there’s a record shop too, you guessed, specialising in Fifties and Sixties, and doing a brisk trade in pop singles from the golden age when I dropped by. A lot of older record collectors seem driven by nostalgia. Much overrated in my view, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

As is customary, I was almost out of the shop when the proprietor Paul called out with a last minute suggestion. “Rollins and those sort of blokes is your thing isn’t it? What about this?” holding up a Verve Clef I had not seen. Interesting it was too. Gillespie is a little old school, but Rollins and Stitt definitely rang my bell. So take the plunge, a little more damage to the plastic card, and on to the Wickes Home Improvement centre, happily munching from a paper bag of those delicious plum-in-chocolate Polish sweets, sliwka. By the time I got home, none were left .

Apart from this one, that got away…

“…leave your troubles on your doorstep,                                                                       

  just direct your feet,                                                                                                         

to the sunny side of the sweet”

(Photos updated January 2, 2017)

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15 thoughts on “Gillespie, Rollins, Stitt: “Sonny Side Up” (1957) Verve

  1. I am on that damned mission to acquire 50s vinyl of all the 50s Rollins lps, and do not have this one yet, but do have the twin of it, Duets. After listening to your rip I have put the valve phono stage on to warm up for half an hour before putting it on.
    So many great tenor players out there, with loads from our own sceptered isle, and I am simultaneously trying to get to grips with the output of the earlier generation as well of late, Hawk and Pres, plus more of the white players, who I have pretty much ignored since my teens, whilst devouring all the righteous Black 60’s players. After 40 years of listening to modern jazz, I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface.

    • That’s what I like to hear, a man with a heroic mission, I applaud you, it is a worthy challenge. Modern Jazz 1956-66 is a rich endless seam, which offers unlimited opportunity to seek out more and more beauty. Nothing in more modern times compares, except for a few strands that found their way through certain artists and labels into the ’70s and ’80s, needing to be very selective.

  2. You are so fortunate to have been practically handed that record. I have searched high and low for it. Only have both CD editions. My collection will never be complete without this one!

  3. Hello, i have the original MASTER of this vynil 1957, it was a present. Can you offer me 1000 thousands of pounds for him, but i will never give you !!

  4. ….nostalgia isn’t what it used to be……That’s a funny comment 😉

    Love the music. The recording was made in stereo (too?) sounds great in any way.

    • Hi, I think its mono, but the recording is so superb it never occured to me to ask the question. Each instrument is well mic’d, and when the two Sonnys are full-tilt, the separation is by tenor voice not position. Stitt is brighter and has the edge on speed, Rollins has the fatter tone. It works really well in mono as they compete for space, giving no quarter trading licks.

  5. Glad the shop owner knows his customers! Have this on CD of course. I like “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” the most. It’s such a laid back version; perfect to relax at the end of another mayhem office day.

    • Reminded me of all the lyrics I had forgotten. Its a good song to help you through the day, agreed, apart from the line, something like “if only I had a cent, I’d be rich as Rockerfeller”. I just can’t make the math tally up.
      BTW that’s some CD collection!

      • I bought my first ‘regular’ CD in late 1989. I bought my first Jazz CD (Blue Train) in 1992. So now, in 2012, you can imagine how many known and lesser known titles I have; hence the fact that a lot of the vinyls that feature here on LJC can be found on CD in my ‘man cave’ 😉

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