Sunday, May 13, 2012

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Sonny Criss

Artist:Sonny Criss
Song:Black Coffee
Album:This Is Criss!

It's easy to overlook tenor sax player William "Sonny" Criss but his 60s recordings on Prestige Records are well worth checking out especially the 1966 album This Is Criss!. He was born Oct. 23, 1927 in Memphis and moved to Los Angeles at age 15. By age 19, he was playing in Howard McGhee's band with Charlie Parker. Parker was a major influence on Criss' playing style. He played as a sideman for Johnny Otis, Billy Eckstine and Stan Kenton. After joining the Buddy Rich band in 1956, he signed with Imperial Records. They didn't seem to know what to do with Criss and his albums didn't sell. He signed with Prestige Records in 1965 and had his best run there. The 1966 album This Is Criss! is considered his best album by jazz experts and a Rudy Van Gelder remastered version is available on CD. Musicians are pianist Walter Davis, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Alan Dawson. Black Coffee was written by big band arranger Sonny Burke and veteran lyricist Francis Webster and was first recorded and charted by Sarah Vaughan in 1948. This album is worth checking out. Criss won a 1968 Downbeat Magazine award as Talent Deserving Wider Recognition. There was talk about promoting him better but it didn't happen. Criss left Prestige in 1969 and recorded for Muse and Impulse in the 70s. He moved to Paris was still actively performing in the mid-70s when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. When he couldn't stand the pain anymore, he shot himself and died on Nov. 19, 1977 at age 50. Muse had just signed him to a new contract. A very tragic end for a very talented and underrated musician. Here's a video for Black Coffee by Sonny Criss.

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