Sonny Stitt Day

February 2, 1924 – July 22, 1982

A tribute to the always-impressive bebop saxophonist

Edward Hammond Boatner Jr. (Sonny Stitt) was born on February 2, 1924 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Given up for adoption as an infant, he was adopted by the Stitt family in Saginaw, Michigan, started playing saxophones early on, and while in high school worked locally in the Len Francke Band.

By 1943, when he was with the Tiny Bradshaw Big Band, Stitt had a sound and style on alto that was very close to that of Charlie Parker who he met that year.

Stitt was part of the classic bebop era, working with the Billy Eckstine Big Band in 1945, the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, and recording with the Bebop Boys before slipping into obscurity for a time during 1947-48 due to drug problems which he eventually beat.

Thought by some as being merely a Charlie Parker imitator, Stitt defied his detractors by starting to double on tenor in 1949 and even played baritone for a bit in the early 1950s, recording with Bud Powell, J.J. Johnson and his good friend Gene Ammons with whom he co-led a quintet during 1950-52.

Sonny Stitt, a jazz warrior, spent much of his career freelancing, picking up local rhythm sections, heading short-lived quartets, and taking on any young upstarts in colorful battles.

A master of the bebop vocabulary, Stitt recorded often, had a short stint with the Miles Davis Quintet in 1960, made classic albums with Gene Ammons, and had occasional associations with Dizzy Gillespie including with the Giants Of Jazz during 1971-72

Sonny Stitt is featured in 1965 playing “Lover Man.”


Sonny Stitt, alto sax
Walter Bishop Jr, piano
Tommy Potter, bass
Kenny Clarke, drums

-Scott Yanow


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