Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Sonny Red - Sonny Red

Sonny Red

256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 324

And Then Again

As a bit of a birthday gift for the shad shack, which celebrates its first anniversary today, we've saved the best for last. In fact, some folk even speculate this lesser-known set from vet Sonny Red may even be the best of entire MRL run. Whther they're right or wrong is strictly a matter of personal taste but you'd have a helluva time ruling it out of the running.

If you're unfamiliar with the name, you're not alone. Obviously we're not talkin' 'bout the French metal band nor the thoroughbred nor the Bonanno mob family capo Alphonse Indelicato nor the heavily tattooed rapper nor the country/blues harmonicat. That sentence alone illustrates the point made in more than a few biographical pieces on Sylvester Kyner: struggling to get noticed despite instrumental proficiency, compositional skills and the ability to enlist top-tier talent, his generic name didn't do much to help him stand out from the crowd. In this day and age, when "Sonny" and "sax" are mentioned in the same breath, one is more likely to immediately think of Rollins, Stitt, Criss or maybe even Fortune.

However, Kyner seems to have made a memorable impression on those with whom he worked, especially upon the wife of a fellow alto player from the NYC scene it would seem since Gloria Coleman composed a track called "Hey Sonny Red" for Soul Sisters, her debut on Impulse! records. Sonny had made his way out to the big apple about five years before this was cut and worked with a lot of the same folks. Wonder how her hubby George felt about that? BTW, Coleman also released a cookin' album for Mainstream, Swings and Sings Organ.

Hey Sonny Red

Musician and scholar Ivan Svanoe wrote the definitive piece on Red, so the minimal biographical info I could find on him would be a drop in the Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red bucket. The following is taken from the Mississippi Rag's coverage of Annual Review of Jazz Studies #13 published in 2003:
The longest essay is a thorough oral history of the modern alto sax player Sonny Redd (or Red), aka Sylvester Kyner (1932-81), Anders Svanoe's "Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red." Born in rural Mississippi in 1932, Redd grew up in Detroit and moved to New York City in 1957 to enter the burgeoning modern jazz scene there. He played with major musicians, recorded and was generally known as a capable and entertaining musician, but there was by then a glut of post-Parker alto players and Redd never established an identity with the jazz audience. Nevertheless, he persisted stubbornly in the music, becoming "a jazz survivor" in one commentator's words.

Svanoe's history is very thorough, with many interviews, photographs and other documents, 40 scores of compositions and solos (including scores to several flute quartets) and an annotated discography of Redd's work. The essay runs to 145 pages, virtually a whole monograph and is very well organized and readable. It is an interesting scrutiny of a workaday musician who was not a "jazz giant" or a publicity hound but who made a highly individualistic contribution to modern jazz.

Since the discography below was culled from the usual sources (AMG, Discogs, Jazz Discography Project, googling) I'm sure Mr. Svanoe's annotated discography of Sonny's performances is more thorough, particularly when it comes to his long career as a sideman.
Of course, until you can source a copy of that print-only piece, there's always trusty ol' AMG to get the basics down.

by Scott Yanow
Sonny Red was a good but not great altoist who was somewhat lost in the shuffle in the 1960s and '70s. He worked in Detroit with Barry Harris (1949-1952), in 1954 temporarily switched to tenor while with Frank Rosolino, and later that year joined Art Blakey briefly. In 1957, with his arrival in New York he gained some recognition, recording with Curtis Fuller and Paul Quinichette, in addition to having several dates as a leader (1958-1962) for Savoy, Blue Note, and particularly Jazzland. Despite some freelancing and recording with Clifford Jordan, Pony Poindexter, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham, and Yusef Lateef among others in the 1960s, Red was in obscurity by the 1970s.

To illustrate just how obscure, one of the only reviews conjured up for this particular session (recorded at the East Coast Record Plant in the last week of June '71 and released the first week of September) was found in the April 1972 issue of Black World magazine:
The liner notes indicate that Sonny Red (Mainstream), a.k.a. Sylvester Kyner, is a "Detroiter who has been around for many years, but has been out of the limelight for too many of them," Yes, it would seem so. "Love Song," overdubs Sonny Red on both alto sax and flute, the result a lush, Pharoah Sanders-like quality accented beautifully by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Billy Higgins. "Mustang" should please the foot-tappers, and "A Time For Love" the romantic. In fact, the whole album is a sign: "Quiet. Serious men at work."

Sylvester "Sonny Red" Kyner - Alto Sax & Flute
Cedar Walton - Piano
Herbie Lewis - Bass, Viola
Billy Higgins - Drums

1 Love Song
2 Tears
3 Mustang
4 And Then Again
5 My Romance
6 A Time For Love
7 Rodan


1959 Out of the Blue (Blue Note 4032)
re-issued 1996 on their Connoisseur series
at Sic vos Non Vobis
in contributions c/o grumpy

1959 Two Altos (w/ Art Pepper) (Regent 6069)
at u2n2

1960 Breezing (Jazzland JP-932)

in comments c/o grumpy

1961 A Story Tale (w/ Clifford Jordan) (JLP-940)
at Pathway To Unknown Worlds

1961 The Mode (Jazzland JP-959)

1962 Images (Jazzland JP-974)

1971 Sonny Red (Mainstream MRL 324)

The Mode & Images reissued as Red, Blue & Green
at Escuela de Jazz (lossless) & Blaxploitation Jive (mp3)

As sideman

1957 Tommy Flanagan & Curtis Fuller - Jazz .... It's Magic! (Savoy MG-6055) (also available on Lone Hill's Curtis Fuller Complete Savoy Sessions)
1957 Curtis Fuller - Curtis Fuller with Red Garland (New Jazz NJLP 8277) at Jazz Cartoon
1957 Paul Quinichette - On The Sunny Side (Prestige PRP-7103)
1957 Curtis Fuller - New Trombone (Prestige PRP-7107) at RFCCBH
1957 Frank Wess - Jazz Is Busting Out All Over (Savoy MG-12123) at barin99
1960 Various - Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland (Roulette SR-52049, Vogue 600107)
1961 Bill Hardman - Bill Hardman (Savoy MG-12170) reissued as Saying Something (Savoy SJL/K-1164)
1962 Pony Poindexter - Pony's Express (Epic BA-17035)
1964 Bobby Timmons - Live at the Connecticut Jazz Party (Chiaroscuro 2030, Early Bird 104)
1966 Kenny Dorham - The Shadow Of Your Smile (West Wind WW 2049) aka Last But Not Least 1966, Vol. 2 (Raretone FC 5022)
1966 Kenny Dorham - Live at the Half Note (WABC-FM broadcast Feb. 25) bootleg cover here
1966 Donald Byrd - Mustang (Blue Note BLP 4238) at Blaxploitation Jive
1967 Donald Byrd - Blackjack (Blue Note BLP 4259)
at Blaxploitation Jive
1967 Donald Byrd - Slow Drag (Blue Note BST 84292) at Blaxploitation Jive
1967 Donald Byrd - The Creeper (Blue Note LT 1096) at Blaxploitation Jive
1968 Yusef Lateef - The Blue Yusef Lateef (Atlantic SD-1508) at OufAr KhAn
1972 John White - John White (Mainstream MRL 330) at Soundological
1974 Roy Brooks - Live At Town Hall (Baystate RVJ-6028) at private press
1978 Howard McGhee/Benny Bailey/Teddy Edwards - Home Run (Storyville 4082)

Soundological tames Sonny's red lion HERE and HERE.

BTW, someone coming to the site for their first time today will be the 50,000th unique visitor! Welcome and thanks to you and everyone else who has stopped by since we started in July 2009!


grumpy said...

Great post, many thanks!
Breezin' doesn't seem to be around these days and I sold my vinyl some time ago (a stupid thing to do but I was extremely poor!), however I do have a copy at mp3-160
if anyone's interested:

cheeba said...

You're welcome and even bigger thanks to you for the giving us a chance to hear Breezing grumpy!

I'm on the road so unable to listen to it for a day or so but it rec'd favourable reviews when it debuted and look forward to hearing it!

sasha said...

Wow!! Thirty seconds into this and I'm smilin'!! Sonny is so individual..Love his approach..And what a rhythm section! Thanks Cheeba.

Solomon said...

Thank you.

E-mile said...

cheeba, I like my MRL's abit more "adventurous" in general, but this Sonny Red is a "nice" album nevertheless! Especially his flute is great. thanks for caring & sharing.
peace, E-mile

grumpy said...

I'm really into Sonny again! In my pre blogland pre Grumpy days I inhabited usenet where an amazing person called JazzSir shared his vinyl collection (@160), aamongst them:
So many thanks to JazzSir.
PS I shall be posting 'Out Of The Blue' from my vinyl at Sic Vos Non Vobis contributions tomorrow.

BigD said...

Wow! I got to thank everyone here. I only have one record with Sonny Red, the Bobby Timmons Connecticut Jazz Party record, I got it because I am a huge fan of Timmons. I had no idea who Red was. But I sure love that record and Sonny Red plays some interesting stuff on it.

I don't get the AMG take that he is a poor Bird copy. He is playing way differently than Bird and Cannonball. It sounds like he is trying different things out and is relaxed as is Timmons.

Anyway I always liked but didn't know that he recorded all this other stuff. I can't wait to listen.

There is another guy like this who shows up out of the blue on a Walter Bishop Jr. record, the first half of Bish Bash. The stuff is live and poorly recorded and I forget his name but play played tenor and was on fire. I think that I read that he didn't really make any other recordings and died shortly after playing that time with Bish.

Thanks for the Sonny Red.

grumpy said...

The tenor player on Bish Bash was Frank Haynes. He died in 1965 aged 34 after playing on about ten albums as a sideman. Great tenor player.: Check Dave Bailey's "Two Feet in the Gutter", "Reaching out" & "Bash", Randy Weston's "The Blues", "Les McCann in New York" .
Anybody fancy posting?

Weekend Hippie said...

Great post, Many Thanks!

roberto t. said...

for BigD: the tenor sax is Frank Haynes. There should be around on blogland an Lp under Grant Green's name with Kenny Dorham.

Many compliments to all, excellent work!

Arkadin said...

Many thanks for this one once again - must have heard it a dozen times since I got it from you. Vaughan/Rowles is available at my Ark now btw...

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot.

'The Mode' and 'Images' were compiled on one cd called 'Red, Blue and Green'. There's a link for that cd on blaxploitation jive in the Grant Green discog!

jazbrazlife said...

Many Thanks! I've been trying to track down every Sonny Red Record these days. I think I have all his later records now. This one without doubt shows the signs of his illness. He had many lung problems and eventually died at 49 of Lung Cancer. His alto playing is definitely not what you'd expect (on the few cuts with alto)though the passion and the concept of his later years is there. Red Kyner's finest playing to me is represented by Mustang and Blackjack, the Donald Byrd Records and Certainly "Live at the Halfnote" - Kenny Dorham. His highest recorded achievement was I believe unreleased Kd live recording with Joe Lee Wilson sitting in on vocals. The solos are long and Red is open as I've ever heard him. The intensity is all is own, different than Mclean and most certainly Cannonball who is not to me of this post bird concept. He is found exploring the whole tone quite frequently ascending and descending in measured steps in every solo. I have such a bad recording taken from a Radio show in 1982 mono but still listen frequently. It's interesting that in this 1971, he does not resort to his quite rich bebop vocabulary and trying to push still in his new direction. It's unfortunate that Jazz Writers and even Mr. Anders don't pay heed to Sonny Red's transformation in the sixties. He is always connected to his beginnings and the recordings that mark a strong originality are never appreciated as such. There is no question that since the start of his career Red has a personal "cry" that probably is the most endearing element of his playing to listeners. To me, his musical growth in his short presence in recordings on top of the fragile, humane sound of his alto make him a very special player who I always come back to listen to. Thanks again!!!!

cheeba said...

Damn, I should go away more often! Seems when I'm on the road is when the most fascinating comments come up.

@Grumpy, BigD, roberto t. - great teamwork! Thanks for the info and especially to grumpy for the links! I updated the original post to include them now.

@porco, thanks for the tip! I added a link to the main post too.

@jazbrazlife, what a wonderful comment, insight such as this is so valuable. Your comments really flesh out the human side of the factual history. I'm not nearly as intimate with Sonny (although I grow moreso each day) but as you mention (and BigD too), he seems more than just a bird clone incorporating touches of trane after the mid 60s.

BTW, if anyone knows of any releases Sonny Red played on but are not listed in the credits, would love to include them.

jazbrazlife said...

Cheeba This private recording of Kenny Dorham with Sonny Red and on other tracks David Fathead Newman is floating around with someone. It would be great if someone would it post somewhere. Maybe Anders Blevsoe knows if it's been released ever. He mentions it in his discography. I was quite excited to get the Timmons recording recently and Sonny's playing on tenor is quite enjoyable, the same vocabulary he was diggin into on alto around that time. Some guys really move their approach when they change horns. Wonder what happened to the alto that day. Was it in the shop? He apparently turned down playing a date with Miles because he wanted him to play tenor during the same period of time according to Blevsoe's monograph.

jazbrazlife said...

The name of the researcher is Anders Svanoe and the record I speak about may be that Live at the Halfnote Bootleg though I picked up an excellent one from the halfnote with
"The Shadow of your Smile". This live one not easily found has PC on bass and Candy Finch on Drums.
Thanks for the link to Breezin'! I had this one years ago and am checking it out right now. Some strong Lateef too.

cheeba said...

jazbrazlife, I came across a reference to the two private tapes earlier at organissimo while researching this post. According to Michael Fitzgerald in that thread and at, there were two live recordings Sonny made with Dorham:

The live radio radio broadcast at the Half Note:

Date: February 25, 1966
Location: Half Note, New York City
Label: [radio broadcast]

Kenny Dorham (ldr), Sylvester 'Sonny Red' Kyner (as), Kenny Dorham (t), Cedar Walton (p), John Ore (b), Hugh Walker (d)
a. 01 Jung Fu - 12:21 (Kenny Dorham)
b. 02 Spring Is Here - 8:12 (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart)
c. 03 Somewhere In The Night - 6:30 (Joseph Myrow, Mack Gordon)
d. 04 The Shadow Of Your Smile - 7:21 (Johnny Mandel, Paul Francis Webster)
e. 05 Straight Ahead - 8:36 (Kenny Dorham)

Sylvester 'Sonny Red' Kyner (as) on a-c, e; Kenny Dorham (t) on a-b, d-e.

Broadcast on WABC-FM program "Portraits In Jazz" hosted by Alan Grant.

Spoken comments by Alan Grant and Kenny Dorham precede b (1:17) and c (0:49).

Recording of broadcast ends slightly before end of performance.

and a private recording from a gig in '67:

Date: April 10, 1967
Location: Minton's Playhouse, New York City
Label: [private recording]

Kenny Dorham (ldr), Sylvester 'Sonny Red' Kyner (as), Kenny Dorham (t), Cedar Walton (p), Paul Chambers (b), Hersh Charles (d), Joe Lee Wilson (v)
a. Bags' Groove - 14:13 (Milt Jackson)
b. Blue Bossa - 13:58 (Kenny Dorham)
c. I'll Remember April - 8:30 (Don Raye, Gene DePaul, Patricia Johnston)
d. What's New - 8:40 (Bob Haggart, Johnny Burke)
e. Four - 6:14 (Eddie Vinson, Miles Davis)
f. The Theme - 4:00 (Traditional, Kenny Dorham)

Joe Lee Wilson (v) on c-d.

Confirmation needed on Joe Lee Wilson's participation specifics.

Drummer has been listed as Russ Charles - confirmation needed.

Location has been listed as Blue Morocco, Bronx, NY - confirmation needed.

There was another set privately recorded which included Fathead but not Red:

Date: May 8, 1967
Location: Blue Morocco, Bronx, NY
Label: [private recording]

Kenny Dorham (ldr), David 'Fathead' Newman (ts), Kenny Dorham (t), Ronnie Mathews (p), Paul Chambers (b), Otis 'Candy' Finch (d)
a. 01 I Love You - 16:37 (Cole Porter)
b. 02 Straight Ahead - 7:43 (Kenny Dorham)
c. 03 Walkin' [aka Gravy] - 12:59 (Jimmy Mundy, Richard Carpenter)
d. 04 Blues - 10:30 (Traditional)
e. 05 Manhã De Carnaval - 6:45 (Luiz Bonfá, Antonio María)

Sometimes dated as April 1967. Confirmation needed.

Can't confirm what's in the monograph as I've never seen it. I'm with you in hoping some kind soul steps up and shares a copy.

BTW, I have a very close friend who plays sax and moving from a tenor to an alto when his tenor was in the shop changed his style, which he maintained whenever he went back to tenor too. However, he also preferred to stick with it for a while and would turn down tenor gigs b/c he wanted to play alto. Not sure he woulda turned down Miles tho ;)

grumpy said...

Thanks to everybody for so much fascinating information.
KD is a personal favourite - I'd love those private recordings to see the light of day!
And thanks Cheeba for the flac at contributions, very much appreciated.

Jur said...

Hi Cheeba,

Many thanks for this great album. I love the flute on "A Time for Love" ,and the funky blowing and piano play on "Mustang". I think I should visit your blog more often!


grumpy said...

Intrigued by The Gloria Coleman track, I found this link is still open on a closed blog:

troods said...

Thank you Cheeba, for Red and the history; can't ever get enough of it. Waiting for the download and then I'll groove on. Home sick gives me the opportunity to try to catch up (a joke when the massive amounts of music are in my face). But it's always exciting.

troods said...

'fore I forget, thank you too, Grumpy, what a great shitload of music.......yours, snow white ;)

cheeba said...

@Jur, glad you like and nice to see you drop by again!

@troods, hope you get well soon!

hookfinger said...

Here's a link to Flanagan's (with Sonny R.) - It's Magic if you like...

Thanks for all the great stuff!!!

Moes Lake said...

I didn't know much about Sonny Red but the homonymous record is really nice cool music, I like very much his laid back playing and it's very human and sentimental as mentioned. Thank you cheeba for the record and thanks jazbrazlife for your intriguing insights.

Moes Lake said...

Also I forgot to mention I loved Cedar Walton. I'm really impressed with his playing, does anyone knows anything about him or has to recommend good records with him as a sideman?

cheeba said...

Hi Moes! I too love Cedar, especially as a sideman. However, that list is huge. I'd recommend pretty much anything on there from the early 60s to mid 70s. You may already be familiar with a lot of it if you like Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Jordan, Hank Mobley or Lee Morgan - he's all over their bizness.

You can check out more of him on earlier posts here at Soundological: Johnny Coles' Katumbo, Clifford Jordan's Glass Bead Games & Art Farmer's Gentle Eyes.

As for his work as a leader, a good place to get an overview of his early Prestige output is the compilation Cedar Walton Plays Cedar Walton. I love all of his stuff from the 70s but if you're not big on too much funk/disco fusion you might want to stay away from the RCA and Columbia stuff.

I would highly recommend the excellent blog Musica Desde Las Antipodas for a good bio and many shares of his LPs:

I believe Smooth has also posted quite a few at My Jazz World too.


grumpy said...

Kenny Dorham & Sonny Red – live broadcast February 25, 1966, Half Note NYC. Seems to have been issued on several European labels. This is from the Magnetic CD but includes some artwork from others editions.
Posted at

Moes Lake said...

Cheeba thanks so much for the info! I checked Musica Desde Las Antipodas and was indeed a goldmine. I don't know how Walton slipped under my radar. I got Hubbords Hot Horn from the excelent My Jazz World as you suggested as I don't own much of Hubbards discography as well. I bet it'll be smoking hot. Clifford Jordan doesn't ring a bell , damn I'm lost :)
Yes, I actually detest the disco influenced jazz records. But I see lots of stuff to digg into! Thanks again!

grumpy said...

Moes Lake - re Cedar Walton' excellent contribution as a sideman, I've just posted Junior Cook's Somethin's Cookin' at the contributions part of and both sites well worth a look!

Moes Lake said...

Thanks grumpy, I'm going to check them out!

PE_35 said...

hi from Canada,

is it possible to have a link for Sonny Red (the mode) 1961, the other links don't work anymore ?

thanks very much

cheeba said...

Hi PE_35, there were never any links to The Mode posted (that I could find) so not able to help.

Hopefully someone may read this post and help out some day...

Orbyt said...

Thank you Cheeba and Grumpy! A definitive post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the link to A Story Tale!

Tape You Certain Songs said...

Soundomological is incredible - thanks so much for putting the pieces together from the sprawling web.

Here's a great article and oral history of Sonny Red, along with a very comprehensive discography (with many sessions not yet listed here !), by Andrew Svanoe in the 2003 number of the Annual Review of Jazz Studies -- BLUESVILLE: THE JOURNEY OF SONNY RED. It's over 100 pages, and well worth the time...

Tape You Certain Songs said...

Tape You Certain Songs said...

And, sorry for spreading this over multiple comments, a Svanoe bio, as he seems like a most interesting fellow; I'll be checking out his work--

Playing all of the saxophones and the occasional clarinet part, Anders got his start in music taking piano lessons, singing in church choirs and playing saxophone and piano in the public school bands. In 1991 Anders graduated from Luther College and in 1994 he completed his Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the mid 1990s Anders studied with Frank Morgan while Frank lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “Frank taught me everything about the saxophone, especially the importance of sound.” Another key component to Anders’ post-graduate education was his meetings with multi-instrumentalist and composer Roscoe Mitchell. Since 2001 Anders has played and recorded with Roscoe in various contexts ranging from duos to large ensembles.

As a member of the Transatlantic Art Ensemble, The Roscoe Mitchell Big Band, and a guest with Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory, Anders has performed with a “who’s-who” in the jazz/contemporary improvised music scene: Evan Parker, Corey Wilkes, Craig Taborn, Philipp Wachsmann, John Rangecroft, Neil Metcalfe, Nils Bultmann, Marcio Mattos, Jaribu Shahid, Barry Guy, Tani Tabbal, Paul Lytton, Vijay Iyer, Ari Brown, Mwata Bowden, Spencer Barefield, Gerald Cleaver and many others.

Anders has also performed with The Cab Calloway Orchestra; the 2008 Thelonious Monk Competition Winner in saxophone, Jon Irabagon; the award winning Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Sextet, 1987 Thelonious Monk Competion semi-finalist in piano Dave Stoler, University of Toledo assistant professor of jazz piano Tim Whalen and many others.

In 2007 The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University published Anders’ book on bebop saxophonist, Sonny Red, in its “Annual Review of Jazz Studies 13.” “Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red” was a 10 year project focusing on the virtually unknown, but very unique, saxophonist from Detroit. The book includes transcriptions, a discography, and an oral history which includes interviews from: Curtis Fuller, Kiane Zawadi, Tommy Flanagan, Frank Foster, Charles McPherson, Louis Hayes, Jimmy Heath, Talibe Kibwe, Cedar Walton, Yusef Lateef, many more musicians and family members.

Anders is currently teaching saxophone at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin and Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois.

oaklandish said...

Thanks everyone. My dad lived for the music always and sought only to make people.

ps My family's debt to Anders Svanoe is never ending!