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Lone Wolf: The Roost Alternatives

Sonny Stitt
Lone Wolf: The Roost Alternatives


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Config/Selection: A / ROGV-037

Units per set: 1


Marketing Points:

·       Features a brand new collection of Stitt’s Roost alternate takes making their debut on vinyl.

·       Includes new artwork featuring Francis Wolff photos and liner notes from jazz producer, Michael Cuscuna

·       1LP will be cut to lacquers at Sam Phillips Recording Studio, pressed on 180g vinyl at Record Industry in the Netherlands and come in a single pocket tip-on jacket.



Sonny Stitt was born Edward Boatner, Jr. into a musical family in Boston on February 2. 1924 and later moved to Michigan where he took the family name of his step father Robert Stitt. By age 20, he was already a professional musician, playing alto saxophone with the Tiny Bradshaw band.  A high profile stint with Billy Eckstine’s big band; a hotbed of bebop innovators followed in 1945. A string of stellar small group sessions in the late ‘40s with Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, Kenny Clarke, Fats Navarro and Bud Powell among others earned him the renown as an outstanding modern saxophone virtuoso. His similarity to Charlie Parker’s style, which he always maintained was parallel development rather than an effort to emulate Bird, unfairly branded him a Parker imitator.  Phil Woods and Charles McPherson would later suffer a similar assessment. But as Gene Quill was heard to say at Birdland one night when a patron accused him just mimicking Bird, “Why don’t you try imitating Charlie Parker!” Teddy Reig, who had produced Stitt’s many appearances on Savoy sessions, had started Roost Records in 1949 and was quick to record Stitt after the dissolution of the Ammons-Stitt band. Reig would continue to produce a series of magnificent Stitt albums until 1965. True to his lone wolf nature, Stitt would record throughout this period as a non-exclusive artist, making albums for Verve, Prestige, Argo and Impulse among others. Roost did not have the budget and distribution that other labels enjoyed, so much of his work here, despite its excellence, did not garner the sales or reputation that it deserved. Stitt’s first Roost session on November 20, 1952 is represented here by alternate takes of all four titles recorded at the date. Sonny is on tenor sax throughout. He’d introduced the horn on a J.J. Johnson three years earlier and began using it with increasing regularity. His sound and style on the tenor are unique and quite distinct from his alto work. The rhythm section is unusual for Stitt; John Simmons and Jo Jones were stylistically rooted in the swing era. The mystery man here is Fletcher Peck, about whom nothing is known, in his only recorded appearance. The standards, “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “Why Do I Love You” are taken at medium and up tempos respectively. Stitt’s “Symphony Hall Swing” (also known as “Mass Ave Swing”) is built on “I Got Rhythm” changes and borrows part of the melody from Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning.” His medium-paced blues “Sonny’s Bunny” was recut for Roost three years later with Quincy Jones’s orchestra backing up the saxophonist. Sonny shifts to alto sax for balance of this album. The second (December 15/16, 1955) and fourth (August 30, 1957) record dates in this collection reflect an inadvertent advantage of Stitt working as a single rather than as a band leader. In the hands of the right producer, Stitt could enjoy first class rhythm sections that wouldn’t consider going on the road. The ’55 session yields gorgeous readings of “The Nearness Of You,” on which Basie guitarist Freddie Green joins the quartet, and “If I Should Lose You.” The third session here, which produced “37 Minutes And 48 Seconds With Sonny Stitt,” comes from late 1956 or January 23, 1957 date. The three alternate takes add another 10 minutes and 49 seconds to the mix! Dolo Coker, Edgar Willis and Kenny Dennis all make their recording debut here. They may have been working with some regularity with Stitt. Stitt takes “Sweet Georgia Brown” at a furious tempo with a clear bebop attitude. The medium-slow “Blues For Yard” is Sonny’s tribute to Charlie Parker, whose magnificent blues playing is often the most overlooked aspect of his achievements. Stitt digs deep on “Harlem Nocturne,” a perennial sexy feature for tenor saxophonists. That Rolls Royce of rhythm sections (Jones, Marshall and Wilson) returns for “Sonny Stitt With The New Yorkers” represented here by alternates of a blues and two standards. Stitt’s solo turns “Engos, The Bloos” into a dazzling bebop masterpiece. By 1957, the 12” LP format was the standard. The quartet takes advantage of the extended playing time by stretching out on “People Will Say We’re In Love” and a soulful “It Might As Well Be Spring.” Sonny Stitt was a true improviser and his solos on these alternate takes differ substantially from the later takes chosen to be the masters. Some of them were uncovered by Teddy Reig in 1986 for an LP entitled “Symphony Hall Swing.” The rest were first released on the 2001 Mosaic CD collection “The Complete Roost Sonny Stitt Studio Sessions,” but have yet to appear on the vinyl format.

Track Listing:

Side A

1 They Say It’s Wonderful Alternate Take 2:45

2 Why Do I Love You Alternate Take 2:45

3 Symphony Hall Swing Alternate Take 2:15

4 Sonny’s Bunny Alternate Take 2:58

5 The Nearness Of You Alternate Take 5:22

6 If I Should Lose You Alternate Take 4:29

7 Sweet Georgia Brown Alternate Take 3:33

Side B

1 Blues For Yard Alternate Take 3:09

2 Harlem Nocturne Alternate Take 4:07

3 Engos, The Bloos Alternate Take 3:34

4 People Will Say We’re In Love Alternate Take 7:51

5 It Might As Well Be Spring Alternate Take 6:25


Personnel on tracks A1-A4: Sonny Stitt (ts), Fletcher Peck (p), John Simmons (b) Jo Jones (d) NYC 11/20/52

Personnel on tracks A5 & A6: Sonny Stitt (as), Hank Jones (p), Freddie Green (g), Wendell Marshall (b), Shadow Wilson (d), NYC 12/15/55 and 12/16/55


Personnel on tracks A7: Personnel: Sonny Stitt (as) Dolo Coker (p), Edgar Willis (b), Kenny Dennis (d) NYC late 1956 or 1/23/57

Total side 1: 22:47


Personnel on tracks B1 & B2: Sonny Stitt (as) Dolo Coker (p), Edgar Willis (b), Kenny Dennis (d) NYC late 1956 or 1/23/57

Personnel on tracks B3-B5: Personnel: Sonny Stitt (as), Hank Jones (p), Wendell Marshall (b), Shadow Wilson (d), Nola’s Penthouse Sound NYC 8/30/57