Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Situated 23 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Herminie may look like a small, unassuming Pennsylvanian coal mining group, but it surely gave the world Sonny Clark, a bona fide large of jazz piano. Born on Friday, July 31, 1931, he was baptized Conrad Yeatis Clark and, for a number of fleeting years, between 1955 and 1961, he was a prolific recording artist for Blue Observe Information in New York, laying down traditional albums like Sonny’s Crib, Cool Struttin’, and My Conception. However his time within the highlight was painfully transient; the pianist died from a heroin overdose on Sunday, January 13, 1963. He was 31 years outdated.

Take heed to Sonny Clark’s Sonny’s Crib now.

Drawn to the piano as a boy and possessing a pure facility for the instrument, Clark, who was the youngest in a household of eight kids, started enjoying in a neighborhood lodge whereas nonetheless in elementary faculty. He began his skilled music profession in 1951 after visiting an aunt in California, the place he joined the band of saxophonist Wardell Grey. He later performed with famous bassist Oscar Pettiford and likewise labored as a sideman for bebop clarinetist Buddy DeFranco (with whom he recorded 5 LPs and toured Europe) in addition to becoming a member of the ranks of bassist Howard Rumsey’s West Coast group, Lighthouse All-Stars.

After six years in California, Clark returned to the East Coast in early 1957, and was quickly in demand as a sideman, initially as an accompanist for singer Dinah Washington, after which on a recording session for Sonny Rollins. Distilling the improvements of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk to create his personal bebop-influenced model, Clark attracted the eye of Blue Observe’s boss, Alfred Lion, after impressing on a June ’57 session for saxophonist Hank Mobley. Lion then gave the pianist his first shot at main a recording session beneath his personal identify a number of weeks later, in July of that 12 months, when he recorded his debut album, Dial “S” For Sonny, which instantly established Clark as a tough bop pianist of the primary order.

By the point that Clark went again into Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio to document his second album for Blue Observe – on September 1, 1957, when he laid down the tracks for what turned Sonny’s Crib – the pianist had racked up a number of different sideman periods for the label, together with one other one for Hank Mobley.

The recording of the album

On Sonny’s Crib, Clark opted to make use of the sextet format that had labored so nicely on his debut album, although solely trombonist Curtis Fuller remained from that session’s line-up. In got here Donald Byrd on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, and Artwork Taylor on drums. With a reborn, revitalized Coltrane on board, it was a powerful line-up (earlier within the 12 months, Trane had been fired from the Miles Davis Quintet for unreliability as a consequence of drug habit, however, by September, had give up heroin for good; in late ’57, nevertheless, he was re-establishing himself as a serious pressure in jazz).

Three of the album’s 5 tracks are requirements. The opener is a swinging tackle Rodgers & Hart’s “With A Tune In My Coronary heart,” whereas a jaunty studying of Kurt Weill’s “Communicate Low” is propelled by an infectious Latin groove, with Coltrane taking the primary solo and displaying his absolute mastery of the tenor saxophone. A wistful tackle Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s mournful ballad “Come Rain Or Come Shine” reveals the sextet in a reflective temper, with Fuller’s resonant trombone notably efficient.

For facet two of Sonny’s Crib, Clark reserved two lengthy self-penned tunes. The primary is the title music, a traditional piece of unadulterated laborious bop the place the “head” theme attracts on “amen” cadences from African-American church music. It then eases right into a midtempo swing groove which permits the soloists to stretch out. First in line is Coltrane, who delivers a sometimes strong however fluid “sheets of sound”-style solo.

Closing the LP is “Information For Lulu,” one other uptempo piece with Latin inflections that’s distinguished by adroit ensemble work and stellar solos. Fittingly, Clark leads the primary solo on this closing observe, which reveals his lean melodic model and right-hand melodies which are nearly horn-like of their phrasing.

The album’s reception and legacy

After Sonny’s Crib, Sonny Clark recorded six extra periods as a frontrunner for Blue Observe, together with, a 12 months later, what many critics understand as his definitive album: Cool Struttin’. At all times in demand, Clark additionally performed as a sideman on a slew of periods for the label, together with albums by Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, Stanley Turrentine, Grant Inexperienced, and Dexter Gordon.

Although diminutive by way of his top (he stood solely 5 foot, 5 inches), Sonny Clark was undoubtedly a person of considerable stature within the jazz world. He might need achieved even larger issues had he lived longer, however as it’s, Sonny’s Crib is a traditional album that ensures that each his music and expertise might be appreciated by future generations.

Take heed to Sonny Clark’s Sonny’s Crib now.

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