Sonny Stitt Quartet “New York Jazz” (1956)

Track Selection: Alone Together

(Note. apologies, the closing bars of the track terminate abruptly. The track will be re-ripped when I next have acces to my vinyl)


Sonny Stitt (as, ts) Jimmy Jones (p) Ray Brown (b) Jo Jones (d) recorded NYC, September 14, 1956


AllAboutJazz devotes a good amount of space to this record, which I will distill  to the essentials, or read the full review here

“…Sonny Stitt was not one of the geniuses, nor one of the innovators. Rather, he took the complex language of Charlie Parker and created a syntax and rhetoric that the rest of us could understand. Consummate saxophone playing by a musician driven by a need for completeness and perfection… he manages to construct logically complete, emotionally satisfying solos with a beginning, middle and end, time and time again.

Just listen to what he does with “Alone Together”—first on tenor, then switching horns and taking the tune out with another textbook solo on alto.

So there you have it. My track selection. Beautiful playing, time better spent listening than discussing the merits of this greatest “Parker disciple”

Vinyl: UK Columbia 33CX 10114 release of US Verve MGV 8219. Mono.

Supervised by Norman Granz, and manufactured in the UK by EMI of Hayes, Middlesex.  “Middlesex” . Not quite as urban-hiphop cool sounding as NooJoisy. The name is derived from its inhabitants back in the year 700, the “middle-saxons”. (And there was you thinking it had something to do with sex) I grew up in Middlesex, but for unrelated reasons, the county was abolished in 1965, and remains only an optional postal town name for addresses. By one of those odd coincidences, there is county of Middlesex in New Jersey and as far as I know there are no plans to abolish it. Not that this has anything to do with Sonny Stitt.

Where was I, ah yes, pressed at the EMI Hayes record pressing plant, the last of the great manufacturing record plants still working today. Take a nice guided tour of the plant and an excursion into the mechanics of record pressing. Not that this has anything precisely to do with Sonny Stitt.  The EMI pressing sounds very good nevertheless. The original recording  is on Verve, hence the trumpeter logo beneath the Columbia label. I have very few EMI pressings so not much to judge it against, but like vintages, 1956 was a good year for record pressings.

Collectors Corner

Sonny doesn’t seem to pull the trophy-hunters, to judge by the very reasonable price put on his records. This one set me back around $20, which  a nice price for a 1956 original UK pressing in Excellent condition.  Everyone seems to mark Stitt down as a Charlie Parker copyist, while I just enjoy listening to his playing. Suits me, as I think he’s great.

Rollins, Coltrane, Bird, Miles… Sometimes originality and innovation can be over-valued. From time to time my bosses sent me on Leadership Skills and Leadership Development courses, like what the world needed was more and better Leadership. I concluded, at the end of the day, the biggest problem in organisations was the poor quality of Followership. Not an accusation you could level at Sonny Stitt.

8 thoughts on “Sonny Stitt Quartet “New York Jazz” (1956)

  1. Thanks for the link to the Guardian slideshow — stills, but very good ones, and a near perfect narration. I’m really glad to have seen that.

    • For those of us who have spent most of their working lives in an office, surrounded by exotic plants and glamorous secretaries ( its that Mad Men moment again) where the nearest thing to an industrial machine is a whiteboard with marker pens, a factory where they make real things is something of a shock. You can tell the Guardian jounalist had never worked in one. Still, they got the answer to the “Why vinyl?” question right. “Superior sound quality” even if said somewhat without conviction. Cue someone actually playing a vinyl record who can articulate what is so special about it? Too difficult, but then it was made by The Gruaniad.

  2. who knows Bird works can easily recognize his lesson here in Stitt.
    this session was recorded a year after Bird’s death (1955 March 12) with much better equipment than Bird’s important recordings (40’s).
    I think what curbs serious listeners is the sound quality which isn’t up to date.
    but that man, alto into his mouth, is unsurpassed for technique, ideas, innovations.
    please, listen again, Savoy and Dial.
    later Verve/Clef/Norgran can stay, mostly, buried.

    • Absolutely, Dottore. Parker is an absolute must for every self respecting jazz aficionado. He or she who manages to keep a dry eye while listening to Parker’s infamous recording of “Lover Man” is from another planet. What I have of Parker is, of course on CD, but you’re right: Dial and Savoy recordings are the best. Although the Charlie Parker Jam Session on Verve is a killer album that you can’t afford to miss! 😉

  3. Too bad the guided tour is just a collage of stills… I’d loved to see actual moving images of that vinyl pressing plant. Maybe they accept excursions? Would make for a perfect excuse to visit Hayes, don’t you think? 😉

    And personally I think Sonny Stitt’s playing doesn’t sound like Parker’s way of playing at all to me. I mean if ‘they’ say that he took the complexity of Parker and turned it into something ‘we’ could understand, then if you get right down to it, it may even sound a bit insulting to ‘we’, the listeners. So you’re right: forget the bollocks and just enjoy his playing. Just like I do when I play ‘Sonny Side Up’, the album recently posted on here. 😉

  4. I have to say I’ve never really got into Parker or Monk, and Lord knows I’ve tried, but this I can listen to all day long. I hear the lynch mob approaching…

    • Is there anything else you would like to share with us? (Keep him talking until the lynch mob get there). I know what you mean. I just played back my own rip and I sat quite happily floating for four minutes, it’s like following the pied piper, but saxophone not flute. Stitt is hypnotic. The switchover at about three minutes in is extraordinary, when the tenor is substituted with the alto. Beautiful.
      Right. The Jazz lynch mob should be hammering on your door right now. Claim mistaken identity.

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