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Art-Alive.com

 
 
CANCER CLAIMS SONNY STITT  YARDBIRD'S HEIR

     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 awe.

     Taught music at home by both parents, Stitt had a head start on most of his peers.  He learned 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 resemblance.

     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.  His 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.  Being 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 of two).

     Although he mastered three saxophones, he concentrated on two (tenor and alto).  Stitt, 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.

Author:  GEORGE EDWARD TAIT

Publication Name: NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS

Publication Date: 08-07-82

 
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