Sonny Stitt: Personal Appearance (1957 Verve) HMV


 Selection 1: Autumn in New York

Selection 2: You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To


Sonny Stitt (alto, tenor saxophone) Bobby Timmons (piano) Edgar Willis (bass) Kenny Dennis (drums) recorded NYC, May 12, 1957


Stitt recorded prolifically over three decades from 1949 to 1982, with a legacy of over 100 titles as leader, of which my shelves count fifteen, mostly pre-1965 recordings. Admittedly not all Stitt titles are great material, thinking of his soul-jazz outings which I tend to avoid. His later work I find tends to lack the energy and fluency found here in this late ’50s recording of bebop standards. If you have need for a fiery saxophone speed fix, early Sonny Stitt does satisfy it. “Parker-influenced” style perhaps, but who says that is a bad thing? All About Jazz say:

 “Stitt shows an uncanny ability to run changes and stitch together solos that venture into unexpected corners, playing dizzying series of notes without sounding showy …  he displays the same isosceles passages Bird favored, yet tinged with a bit of soulfulness that the more famous altoist never quite had.”

What FFS is an “isosceles passage“? The only reference I could find is regarding the internal geometry of the great Egyptian pyramid c 2600 BC:

A triangle of shorter sides in the simple ratio m:n, when its angle is doubled, will produce the exact angle of a Pythagorean triple m*m-n*n:2mn: m*m%2bn*n by Euclid’s formula.

Right. Not an equilateral triangle, an isosceles one. Trigonometry Jazz.  And you thought people who look at vinyl etchings are weird? Anyway, sounds good to me… Parker’s favoured isosceles passages… obviously. Maybe its a creative writing allusion to a scale of rising notes equalled by symmetrical scale of falling notes, which form a sort of isosceles triangle. The places jazz-writing takes you, sheesh.

The inclusion of the lively young Bobby Timmons on piano adds an extra element of interest and variety.  And of course, with Pythagoras on bass, a firm footing.

Vinyl:  CLP 1363 His Masters Voice (EMI) UK release of US Verve MGV 8324

Test press – factory sample! Mono! This joins three other HMV  Verve titles and they all sound remarkably strong. Without a late-’50s US Verve comparator it is not possible to say exactly how they compare, but they are a cut above what I expect from EMI pressings. Wide dynamic range, firm bass, lots of punch in the mid range and clarity in the top end, somebody doing something right – probably the Verve engineer in the first place.

Conventional wisdom says dropping a tape generation copy for pressing in another country should result in a loss of quality, but these late ’50s EMI pressings show little if any sign of  lesser quality. Conventional wisdom does hold true for Columbia , where original US Columbia pressings are clearly superior to UK. Perhaps there is some issue about the quality of tape duplication, someone in the process  making copies of copies, anything is possible.



 Collectors Corner

Source: Brighton record store.

I don’t go to Brighton a lot – it has a few record shops but I’m not hip enough to get a pass through DJ-control. A friend who goes frequently rang me from a record store, having come across stuff he knew would interest me. What followed then was a fifteen minute three way conversation between myself, my friend, and the shop-owner, to establish provenance of a pile of records from a jazz collection that had just come in.

Perhaps when you were a kid you played a pencil and paper game called “Battleships”, which predated Internet and computers. You had to guess which squares contained battleships, or turned out to have mines. This came to mind as question and answer followed.

Miles Davis, Nefertiti. What’s the label?  It’s on Columbia. Has it got a red label? Yes. Two eye or Columbia-all-round? Columbia-all-round. Dealer says its the first pressing. What year was it released? 1968, I think. Then it probably could be on Columbia-all-round. US or UK press? I don’t know, how do I tell? The bottom back of the cover. US then. The matrix. Is it machine stamp or hand written? Hand written. Hmm … should be machine stamp XSM something. See anything else in the run-out? No. Wait, There is a tiny stamp. I think it looks like “Bell something or other, could be Sounds”   Did you say mono or stereo? Stereo. And how much is he asking for it? £15. OK, I suspect its a later pressing, but put that on the “Yes” pile.

Next record, Sonny Stitt, Personal Appearance. What’s the label?  HMV. Label colour? Red. Ah its a late ’50’s one Its got the dog looking into an old record player.Label has a sticker, says “factory Sample” Its quite heavy. Excellent, how much is he asking? This one says £20.. Great, another on the Yes pile.

Only another eighteen records to go. Next…

5 thoughts on “Sonny Stitt: Personal Appearance (1957 Verve) HMV

  1. Love the rendition of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” that you have here. Stitt sounds best on tenor, that’s for sure. His solos next to Rollins and Gillespie on “Sonny Side Up” are outstanding; too bad most fans of that album always refer to Rollins’ solos only…

  2. i like sonny stitt quite a bit on art blakey’s second/last impulse outing, “a jazz message”. but usually i don’t find him to be very interesting. can’t quite say why. he seems to straddle the middle ground between bop and hard bop that i don’t quite dig.

  3. Lovely to hear those tracks again. I bought a copy of this when first it came out (the HMV mono) but it has long gone. ‘You’d be so nice….’ was always a favourite.

    Spotted a NM/NM copy on Ebay about 6 months ago at a low ‘buy now’ price, but just as I was about to buy the seller doubled the price. I took a huff and left it and have not seen another like it listed since. Must try harder next time!

  4. cool gig story john 😉 and another nice pick for andrew! let’s hear about the next 18 then…

  5. The Crown pub in Codsall, a village near Wolverhampton, used to stage jazz shows. Wolverhampton has always been a Trad stronghold so imagine my surprise when I walked in one night and there was Sonny Stitt with a local rhythm section. I’ve always said that music is where you find it – you can pay a fortune and be bored to death – but this was crazy. Unbelievable. Barney Kessel also played there.

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