Friday, February 5, 2010


Conrad Yeatis "Sonny" Clark (piano; b. 1931 - d. 1963)
Sonny's Crib (Blue Note; 1957)

Donald Byrd (trumpet)
John Coltrane (sax)
Curtis Fuller (trombone)
Paul Chambers (bass)
Art Taylor (drums)

If the names above don't impress you enough to buy this---What's wrong with you!?! Well, once you've picked up those essential albums everyone must have when starting a jazz collection, what do you do next? I hope that everyone decides to dig deep and look for some really amazing records from artists they may not have heard of or may notice a couple of musicians playing on the album that are familiar.

Jazz, unlike some other forms of music, is where you can take an educated chance and 90% of time end up pleasantly surprised. One such venture should be Sonny Clark's Sonny's Crib (Blue Note; 1957). Sonny's Crib was the second session Clark would do for Blue Note (the first being Dial "S" for Sonny). Sonny was a huge admirer of John Coltrane and was very excited to be working with him on this, his second date as leader (Coltrane had just finished recording Blue Train (Blue Note; 1957) a month earlier). This date, while slightly subdued because of the material (3 covers and 2 originals), is still a fantastic piece of work from all the musicians involved.

Sonny's Crib features a group that is equal in command while also giveing the ability to solo their direction without dominating the proceedings. Each of the musicians for this session were on their way to becoming legends, but you don't get that sense from this date. From the opening upbeat "Without A Song" that features some killer interchanges between Coltrane and Byrd, to astounding precision of Coltrane, Byrd and Fuller on the Clark penned title track you get the feeling this was not only an amazing session to sit in on but a wonderfully powerful group of artists with whom to record.

The two original compositions "Sonny Crib" and "News For Lulu" would eventually become semi-standards by today's current generation of artists (John Zorn recently covered News For Lulu on two ultra-rare discs with George Lewis (trombone) and Bill Frisell (guitar)).

Sonny's Crib is definitely indicative of the Blue Note sound but it also demonstrates the beauty of each of the performers at an early stage in their careers. Sonny Clark would go on to record two more outstanding Blue Note albums, Sonny Clark Trio and Cool Struttin' in the following months.

John Coltrane would record Soultrane (OJC) a few months into 1958 with Art Taylor and Paul Chambers. Sonny Clark had an unfortunately short career (heart attack in '63) but he left behind a body of work that is solid through and through. If you find any of his albums I would definitely pick them up. Sonny's Crib is an album anyone can enjoy. There are a couple of "Best Of" compilations which actually do the job quite well if you don't want to hunt down the individual albums, but I hope you do.

If you're interested, take a listen on Amazon to Sonny's Crib. It's available both as download and a physical CD.

Below is the titled track from Cool Struttin'.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very good album. I also dig those Zorn albums. "News for Lulu" was literally the first CD I ever purchased. Bought it at Tower in Boston. I can't recall if you were with me at the time, but I wouldn't be surprised.