Edward “Sonny” Stitt was born in Boston, Massachusetts February
2, 1924 and died in Washington, D.C. July 22, 1982 at the age of 58. Throughout his entire adult life, Stitt exhibited and
excellence that consistently demanded admiration and frequently inspired
Taught music at home by both parents, Stitt had a head start on
most of his peers.
the music fundamentals on piano and clarinet but switched to alto after
hearing Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter.
His drive and discipline enabled him to become a professional at
the age of fifteen as a member of the Tiny Bradshaw band.
By the time Stitt heard Charlie Parker, he had already modernized
his music concept such that the two styles reflected a striking
He later added both tenor and baritone saxophones to his arsenal,
brilliantly balanced himself between “Swing” and “Bop”, and
pivoted his expression from a traditional blues base.
This enabled him to incorporate the four primary elements in his
sound i.e. earth and water on tenor and baritone, air and fire on alto.
With effulgent tone and exact timing, Sonny Stitt commanded
flawless technique and fluency beyond reproach.
The buoyancy and bite of his style, the verve and veracity of his
sound left an imprint as indelible as identifiable.
Utilizing amazing “grace notes”, Olympic “runs”, and
infectious spirit, his spectacular speed never sacrificed articulation for
velocity – his countless solos never substituted mechanics for meaning.
And with only a few compositions to his credit: “The Eternal
Triangle,” “Back In My Own Home Town,” etc., Stitt concentrated on
reworking mediocre material into the dazzling and re-interpreting familiar
favorites into the definitive.
Sonny Stitt was omnipresent.
concert, club, T.V., radio, and recording dates defied documentation; his
musical associates – too numerous to mention – included
Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Jo Jones, Thelonious Monk, Kenny
Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Fats Navarro,
Howard McGee, Art Blakey, J.J. Johnson, Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins,
Gene Ammons, John Lewis, Oscar Peterson, and McCoy Tyner.
It must be mentioned that Sonny Stitt’s life was characterized by
the number two and multiples of two.
Numerologically, the number two symbolizes artistry and
sensitivity, twin components that defined Stitt’s musicianship
throughout his career.
born in the second month of the year on the second day of the month in the
twenty-four year of the century gave Stitt both a birthday and birth date
number of two, with a total of three twos on his birth date.
Dying on the twenty-second day of July in a “two” year gave him
a double two on his deathday and triple twos again in his death date.
There are also triple twos in the name Sonny Stitt (t=2).
In addition, both his birthplace (Boston, Mass.) and his deathplace
(Washington, D.C.) have the name number of two.
Stitt was born under the sign of Aquarius, the 11th
house of the zodiac (11 equals 1 plus 1 equals 2) and died not only of,
but under the sign of Cancer, the fourth house of the zodiac (a multiple
Although he mastered three saxophones, he concentrated on two
(tenor and alto).
furthermore, first achieved widespread fame in the duos with Gene Ammons.
“Jug”, as Ammons was known, has the name number of two.
And finally, Stitt’s marriage produced two offspring.
Two days after a Washington, D.C. funeral for Stitt at the 19th
Street Baptist Church, a memorial service was held in New York at St.
Peter’s Lutheran Church to a more than capacity crowd.
Among those participating in the tribute were Ken McIntyre, Barry
Harris, Billy Taylor, James Spaulding, and Stella Mars.
Among the telegrams read was one from Max Roach.
Sonny Stitt will be forever remembered for the quality of his
output and the quantity of his work.
One of the most recorded and respected musicians of the 20th
century, his productivity was phenomenal, his contribution incalculable.
A week before Charlie Parker died, he reportedly told Sonny,
“Man, I’m handing you the keys to the kingdom.”
And although Stitt inherited a collective title and a crowded
throne, his royalty was as evident as his reign – though non-exclusive
– is eternal.
GEORGE EDWARD TAIT
Name: NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS
Publication Date: 08-07-82