When Sonny Met Frank

After reading the May 24 Rifftides post about the passing of pianist Frank Strazzeri, producer Dick Bank sent a story from Los Angeles.

Frank did a recording with Sonny Stitt in the Eighties at Sage & Sound studio in Hollywood. The engineer, Jim Mooney, remembers that Stitt had brought a big bottle with him, which he put next to the piano. He’d refresh himself during breaks. The bottle was emptying faster than it should have, but he said nothing. Finally, he came over to help himself and it was dry. Stitt exploded. Fortunately for Sonny StittFrank, there was aStrazzeri smiling liquor store on the corner of Gordon Street and Sunset Boulevard. He wasted no time getting down there—and not a moment too soon. Jim said that all ended well after it looked like the session might have ended up missing a pianist.

Stitt’s discography lists no album with Strazzeri on piano. Strazzeri’s lists none with Stitt on saxophone. During his career at Sage & Sound, Jim Mooney recorded dozens of artists for a variety of labels. He retains distinct—and colorful—memories of the Strazzeri-Stitt encounter, but doesn’t recall which company hired his studio for the recording. He thinks it may have been a Japanese label and that there is a chance the album was never released.

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  1. David says

    This reminded me of Buck Clayton’s story about recording with Pee Wee Russell. They hadn’t realized that Van Gelder’s studio was in a dry county and were seriously bummed. Efforts to obtain some essential alcohol only produced a bit of stale, warm beer at the end of the session. They both felt that the session had been a complete waste and wrote it off. But when the record came out, they listened again and realized that it was one of the best sessions they’d ever made (and I agree).

  2. Don Conner says

    I saw Sonny Stitt many times. When things were going right (most of the time), he blew his tail off. However, when they weren’t, he became a raging bull. Most of his anger was usually directed at piano players who could not make the changes. Stitt died in 1982, but his musical legacy lives on.