Sonny Stitt

Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt.jpg
Sonny Stitt in New York City on July 6, 1976
Background information
Birth name Edward Hammond Boatner, Jr.
Born (1924-02-02)February 2, 1924
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died July 22, 1982(1982-07-22) (aged 58)
Washington, D.C.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1943–1982
Labels Prestige, Roost, Verve, Argo, Impulse!, Roulette, Cadet, Muse
Associated acts Billy Eckstine, Gene Ammons, Eddie Davis, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis

Edward "Sonny" Stitt (born Edward Hammond Boatner, Jr.; February 2, 1924 – July 22, 1982) was an American jazz saxophonist of the bebop/ hard bop idiom. Known for his warm tone, he was one of the best-documented saxophonists of his generation, recording more than 100 albums. He was nicknamed the "Lone Wolf" by jazz critic Dan Morgenstern, in reference to his relentless touring and devotion to jazz. Stitt was sometimes viewed as a mere Charlie Parker mimic, especially earlier in his career, but gradually came to develop his own sound and style - particularly when performing on tenor sax.

Early life

Edward Hammond Boatner, Jr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts, [1] and grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. He had a musical background: his father, Edward Boatner, was a baritone singer, composer and college music professor; his brother was a classically trained pianist; and his mother was a piano teacher. [1]

Sonny was given up for adoption in 1924 by his father. No one seems to know why Boatner gave his son away, but the child was adopted by the Stitt family, who raised him in Saginaw. [2] He later began calling himself "Sonny". While in high school in Saginaw, Stitt played in the Len Francke Band, a local popular swing band.

In 1943, Stitt first met Charlie Parker, and as he often later recalled, the two men found that their styles had an extraordinary similarity that was partly coincidental and not merely due to Stitt's emulation. Parker is alleged to have remarked, "Well, I'll be damned, you sound just like me", to which Stitt responded: "Well, I can't help the way I sound. It's the only way I know how to play." Kenny Clarke remarked of Stitt's approach: "Even if there had not been a Bird, there would have been a Sonny Stitt".

Stitt had played in some swing bands in the early 1940s and was featured in Tiny Bradshaw's big band in the early forties. He replaced Charlie Parker in Dizzy Gillespie's [3] bop big band in 1945 and in 1946 made the first recordings under his own name for Savoy Records, which established his bop credentials.

Stitt played alto saxophone in Billy Eckstine's big band alongside future bop pioneers Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons beginning in 1945 when he started to play tenor saxophone more frequently, in order to avoid being referred to as a Charlie Parker imitator. Later on, he played with Gene Ammons and Bud Powell. Stitt spent time at the Federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, between 1948 and 1949 for selling narcotics.

Stitt, when playing tenor saxophone, seemed to break free from some of the criticism that he was imitating Parker's style, and he began to develop a far more distinctive sound on tenor. [1] He played with other bop musicians Bud Powell and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, a fellow tenor with a distinctly tough tone in comparison to Stitt, in the 1950s and recorded a number of sides for Prestige Records label as well as albums for Argo, Verve and Roost. Stitt experimented with Afro-Cuban jazz in the late 1950s, and the results can be heard on his recordings for Roost and Verve, on which he teamed up with Thad Jones and Chick Corea for Latin versions of such standards as " Autumn Leaves."

Stitt joined Miles Davis briefly in 1960, and recordings with Davis' quintet can be found only in live settings on the tour of 1960. Concerts in Manchester and Paris are available commercially and also a number of concerts (which include sets by the earlier quintet with John Coltrane) on the record Live at Stockholm ( Dragon), all of which featured Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers. However, Miles fired Stitt due to the excessive drinking habit he had developed, and replaced him with Hank Mobley. Later in the 1960s, Stitt paid homage to Parker on the album Stitt Plays Bird, which features Jim Hall on guitar.

Stitt recorded a number of memorable records with his friend and fellow saxophonist Gene Ammons, interrupted by Ammons' own imprisonment for narcotics possession. The records recorded by these two saxophonists are regarded by many as some of both Ammons and Stitt's best work, thus the Ammons/Stitt partnership went down in posterity as one of the best duelling partnerships in jazz, alongside Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and Johnny Griffin with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Stitt would venture into soul jazz, and he recorded with fellow tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin in 1964 on the Soul People album. Stitt also recorded with Duke Ellington alumnus Paul Gonsalves in 1963 for Impulse! on the Salt And Pepper album in 1963. Around that time he also appeared regularly at Ronnie Scott's in London, a live 1964 encounter with Ronnie Scott, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, eventually surfaced, and another in 1966 with resident guitarist Ernest Ranglin and British tenor saxophonist Dick Morrissey. Stitt was one of the first jazz musicians to experiment with the Selmer Varitone amplification system as heard on the albums What's New in 1966 and Parallel-A-Stitt in 1967.

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русский: Ститт, Сонни