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Personal Appearance

The Sonny Stitt Quartet

The Sonny Stitt Quartet - Personal Appearance The Sonny Stitt Quartet - Personal Appearance
33GSonny Stitt1

Verve Records...UMV 2541...[1981]...33 1/3 LP...Mono

1) Easy To Love - Not Given...NTG
2) Easy Living - Not Given...NTG
3) Autumn In New York - Not Given...NTG
4) You´d Be So Nice To Come Home To - Not Given...NTG
5) For Some Friends - Not Given...NTG

1) I Never Knew - Not Given...NTG
2) Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea - Not Given...NTG
3) East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon) - Not Given...NTG
4) Original? - Not Given...NTG
5) Avalon - Not Given...NTG
6) Blues Greasy - Not Given...NTG

The Sonny Stitt Quartet - Personal Appearance The Sonny Stitt Quartet - Personal Appearance


The Sonny Stitt Quartet

Personal Appearance

In the audience recently, when Sonny Stitt and Roy Eldridge played a Jazz at the Philharmonic set together at the Apollo, was arranger Quincy Jones. "Listening to Sonny with Roy," he said, "I had the same feeling about him as I have about Dizzy. He knows what´s gone before him and he also knows what´s happening today. And because he has so much emotion and drive in his playing all the time, you can always see his real roots."

Pianist Jimmy Jones, who has worked on several Stitt record dates, is further impressed at Stitt´s quickness. "I don´t mean just speed itself, but the fact that his ideas — his lines — hang together so well. As speedy as they are, they make sense, they´re coherent. I know the writers have been calling him a direct descendant of Bird and things like that through the years, but he´s really been developing his own thing.

"Once Sonny is better understood," Jimmy added, "he´ll be a very tough man to get by. The musicians know it now. We know what he can do. I´ve seen it happen at record sessions — he´ll play something and the eyebrows will go up."

Sonny appears to have found a more comprehending public abroad in the past year or so than here. His JATP (Jazz at the Philharmonic) appearances in Europe, particularly in England, have brought him the most enthusiastic press of his career. In this country, he is somewhat less lauded by the writers, possibly because a considerable percentage don´t get to hear too much live jazz regularly, and accordingly, judge him almost entirely by his records.

Records alone can usually provide a fairly accurate knowledge of a player´s capacities, but corollary experience in hearing a jazzman "live" through many sets can add insights that are harder to come by through recordings alone. I´m not saying, of course, that "live" listening knowledge can add anything to the music itself on the recordings; but in as personal a music as jazz, the memories — musical as well as visual — of how a player functions in his normal context can come to affect how one hears the player later on records. The lesson is not limited to jazz. I doubt if anyone who heard the late Wanda Landowska or Dinu Lipatti in concert ever heard them in quite the same way on records afterwards.

Stitt in person, and on his more relaxed records — like this one where the rhythm section is sympathetic and doesn´t get in his way — projects a totality of identification with his horn that used to be associated normally with the older players. The instrument is his most powerful public way of signifying his manhood, his identity. The horn is Stitt, and the rapid running of changes is more than just a demonstration of how well he knows his business — although it´s that too. It´s also a signifying of how rapid his emotions are running, how much drive he has to let out that night.

What I´m saying is that Stiff not only long ago got the horn under his fingers but also, like many of the older players, he now speaks through it as personally and as fluently — more so, actually, than he does in regular speech. When the emotions of such a player are large and when his beat is as irresistibly swinging as Stiff´s, the personal impression he can make can be startling at times. Unlike some recording musicians. Stiff doesn´t need special mike treatment to sound bigger than he is; actually, few recording sessions have fully captured his emotional height.

This, I feel, is one that has. It´s straightaway blowing all the way — the kind of jazz at which Stitt is most himself. There are very few other Stitt records that communicate his "in person" intensity and vigor as effectively as this one, and the title of the album is, therefore, quite apt.

Attention should be paid the crisp, functional accompanying unit. In addition to bassist Edgar Willis, there´s drummer Kenny Dennis, who has worked with Billy Taylor and Mal Waldron, among others, and as of this writing, is part of the new Bill Evans trio. Bobby Timmons is an increasingly interesting pianist who has been with Kenny Dorham, Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt, Maynard Ferguson, and since July, 1958, with Art Blakey´s Jazz Messengers. Like their leader, all three believe in swinging without preambles.

Co-editor, The Jazz Review

Personnel: Sonny Stitt, alto and tenor saxophones; Edgar Willis, bass; Kenny Dennis, drums; Bobby Timmons, piano.




From a sheet inside the album

The Verve Story
The Lively Art of Recording Lasting Music

Norman Granz, the feisty founder of Verve — whose catalogue is a cornucopia of jazz pleasures was once accorded a singular tribute by trumpeter dark Terry. "Norman," said the musician, "gives us the greatest liberty a record producer can give a musician — the liberty to play what we want in the way we want to play it."

Throughout his prodigious recording career, Granz has operated on exactly that premise. He only records musicians he respects, and he proves that respect by enabling them to be proud of the albums they make on his labels. The music comes out as conceived by the players — not as filtered through the trend-conscious mind of a producer.

And that´s why the music on Verve is so perennially compelling. When recorded full-strength, the performances of such nonpareil improvisers as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, and Count Basic do not date. And that has always been Granz´s intention — to assemble a permanent treasury of what Max Roach has called America´s true classical music.

Indeed, Granz says, "jazz should be understood more like classical music. Artur Rubinstein is venerated as an incredible human being. Well, he is incredible, but there´s no reason why Count Basie shouldn´t be equally venerated." Accordingly, Granz has given artists like Basie the chance to record as often as they feel they have something to say— and on their own terms.

To run a record company in this manner requires an authentic enthusiast of the music. And that Granz has been from his college years at UCLA. On graduation, he became a film editor at MGM, but his abiding vocation was jazz. After producing informal jazz sessions in Los Angeles clubs—where he insisted there be no color line - Granz inaugurated his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in 1944. Starting in the next year, those all-star JATP troupes triumphantly toured the United States, and then Europe.

Then, as now, Granz insisted that his musicians be treated with the same dignity as classical performers. As Dizzy Gillespie puts it, "The importance of JATP is that it was the original ´first-class´ treatment for jazz musicians. With Norman, you traveled first-class, stayed in first-class hotels, and never played anywhere there was segregated seating."

"I think," says Granz, "that music should make you happy. It should have energy. A lot of energy. When I hear Oscar Peterson, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy, or Benny Carter, I´m swept up in a marvelous burst of energy and good feeling."

A while ago, when Granz was asked which musician most fully embodied the jazz spirit, the producer´s answer revealed a great deal about his criteria for selecting musicians — not only the one he named - to record: "Roy Eldridge," Granz answered the question. "Every time Roy´s on, he does the best he can, no matter what the conditions are. And Roy is intense about everything so that it´s far more important for him to dare-to try to achieve a particular peak, even if he fails in the attempt - than it is to play it safe. That is jazz. And that´s why it´s so important to make it possible for Roy to keep on recording."

Granz considers himself a kind of chronicler of some of our greatest musical resources. And so, Granz began his record-producing activities with vivid JATP concerts, first releasing them in the Philo and Asch labels (1944-45), and then on Mercury. By 1951, Granz. having obtained the rights to all of his recordings, started to issue them on his own Clef label. Three years later, he added the Norgran line. And in 1957, the swiftly growing Granz catalogue was consolidated on Verve.

In addition to recording the members of the jazz pantheon listed above, Granz also made Verve sets with, among others, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben Webster, Benny Carter, and Stan Getz. Characterizing practically all these sessions was a resilient vitality, an emotional directness.

There are not only many albums by Eldridge, but also by other still creative legends who - had it not been for Granz — would have had an extremely sparse discography in recent decades because they do not bend to passing fads. These are musicians who simultaneously play out of the immediacy of present emotional imperatives and also for listeners far ahead in the future.

On Verve and his other labels. Granz has contributed an extraordinary legacy. If he had not been recording all these years, we — and generations to come - would have had a much less rich and variegated sense of the surprises and splendors of the heart of the jazz scene. Accordingly, Granz is one of the exceedingly few non-musicians — John Hammond is another — to have made a lasting impact on Jazz.

And the musicians who work with him are very much aware of that. Both in terms of the freedom Granz gives them on their recordings, and also in another crucial way. "I´ll tell you what really counts," says Dizzy Gillespie. "The reason I really respect him is that before Norman came on the scene, musicians were looked at as if they could be treated anyway at all. He´s the guy who demanded we be respected."

In the recording studio, too. There are engineers who arrange players in ways that make it easier for the engineer but prevent the musicians from fully hearing each other. Granz will have none of that. In any contest between musician and engineer, the former wins out. That´s another reason why the music on Verve albums is so clearly natural - nothing impedes the self-expression of the musicians. Not the engineer. Nor Granz himself.

The continuing power of the music on Verve, therefore, is part of a gestalt. Larger-than-life-size musicians, and a producer who has made it his life´s work to give these musicians the optimum surroundings for their life´s work.

"He made sure the cats got a decent living," says Roy Eldridge, "he was the first to break down all that prejudice, he was the first to put the music up where it belongs. They should make a statue to that cat, and there´s no one else in the business end of this business I would say that about."

Granz has a statue. A huge one. It consists of all the recordings that say: "Produced by Norman Granz"

Nat Hentoff

© 1981 Polygram Classics, Inc.

Cover: Excellent...with original center hole sleeve

Record: Very Good...tracks noise
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