Tag Archives: Sonny Clark

Sonny Clark Trio: Sonny Clark

Time for another piano centred set, a fine trio recording from 1957 featuring the great Sonny Clark.

Sonny Clark Trio is his second session as a leader at Blue Note and it was recorded on 13 September 1957. It is a subtle album that I return to listen to regularly.

It irritates me when critics damn musicians with faint praise and unfavourable comparisons with their peers and Sonny Clark has been subjected to more than his share of that sort of lazy scrutiny. However, in his excellent book, ‘Cookin’. Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65′, Kenny Mathieson offers a more balanced appraisal. He offers the following comment on the Sonny Clark Trio set:-

“…The essentials of that style lie in his massive rhythmic exuberance, tied to sparely applied chordal punctuations and a fluid single line melodic conception in the right hand (with occasional passing recourse to chording for extra emphasis) which suggests the linear influence of horn playing as much as any of his alleged piano mentors. His touch is always sure, and he likes to throw in an unexpected accentuation or shift in dynamic here and there.”

Well said! It is illuminating to hear from a writer who has a musician’s understanding of what is happening.

Dizzy Gillespie’s Be-Bop gets matters off the a slightly frenetic start before it’s time for cocktails with the Rodgers, and Hart I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

Two Bass Hit bops along with great drum fills from Philly Joe Jones before Tadd’s Delight, as the name suggests, a Tadd Dameron composition offers an opportunity for a workout from deft maestro Paul Chambers on bass.

The standard, Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise, a track which has grown on my via covers from a multitude of artists, is one for you to listen to via YouTube courtesy of 60otaku4.

Click on or touch the arrow to listen

Another standard, in the form of I’ll Remember April by Gene DePaul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye closes the album.

Three alternate tales feature as Bonus tracks on the CD release.

The lives of too many modern jazz musicians were cut short by the occupational hazards, pressures, temptations and demands that were in attendance to a hard working life. Sonny Clark’s light burned brightly before it was extinguished following his death from a heart attack, aged 32 in January 1963. His legacy was a series of albums as leader, which will be explored in due course.

You may spot the anagram in the title of Bill Evans’ elegy: NYCs No Lark, which follows, again courtesy of YouTube:-

The band etc: Sonny Clark (piano); Philly Joe Jones (drums); Paul Chambers (bass). Recorded: 13 September 1957. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey. Produced: Al Lion; Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Murray Stein. Issued as Blue Note 1579.

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A good excuse to write about Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’

The pre-ramble:-  “It’s a funny old world”, as the late comedian Malcolm Hardee used to say.  After a late night getting ready to push the publish button on this blog, a mercifully quiet day at work followed.  Being within easy striking distance of Central London I was in Soho in a trice for a quick spin round the record shops on Berwick Street.  My main reason for going there was to see the pop-up shop put together to display some amazing Clash memorabilia to celebrate the launch of a new greatest hits collection.  Seeing the band’s guitars was on a par with seeing John Coltrane’s main tenor sax or Miles Davis’s original mouthpiece- although I’m sure neither of them would have scratched their names into their instruments as Mick Jones had done with his one of his guitars- a good way to get it back if it is nicked I suppose.

The gig:-  This set me up nicely for a Friday night in a nearby music pub where Chris Holland was celebrating his birthday with a gig.  By strange coincidence, yesterday’s post mentioned Billy Taylor and ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ (perhaps best known to most as ‘that filmnight theme tune’)and this was the second tune that I caught tonight.  The rest of the set took us from Professor Longhair and Dr John in New Orleans to Memphis and Booker T and The MG’s via Ray Charles (more of whom in a moment).  The band featured Chris Holland on electric boogie woogie funkified piano, bass, lead guitar, sax and drums played by aristocrats of the South East London music scene with Seamus Duplicate on a pared down Hammond MX3 organ.

downwithit 'Chris Holland' 'The Pelton'

It was a solo from the Hammond that lit up the venue and touched the parts that move and groove.  Highpoint for me was the Rolling Stones ‘Shine a Light on Me’, originally featuring Billy Preston.  It made me think of the night several years ago when he was due to play at The Royal Festival Hall with the remaining members of The Funk Brothers (the band that played on most of the classic Motown Hits).  He was indisposed and in a tongue in cheek manner the MC introduced a young substitute who used to play with touring soul bands in the 60’s.  It was a certain Mr Steve Winwood!  I’ve made a mental note to turn up the volume a tad when I listen to a Hammond set as it is a very fine and much maligned instrument.

The recording:-  All of that leads me on to the record under consideration.  I was going for something lower key.  However, a night of maximum RnB was missing only one key element- jazz tambourine- which appears with aplomb on Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’.  Don Wilkerson was the tenor sax soloist on Ray Charles classics including: I Got a Woman and This Little Girl of Mine.  He was encouraged by Ike Quebec to record the first of three Blue Note sessions, of which “Preach Brother!’ was second.

I’ve never heard a Blue Note track quite like the opener of Side 2: ‘Camp Meetin’.  A rolling piano accompanied by tambourine is joined by a vocalist, whose ‘Weeeeeeeeeell at that old camp meetin…’ leads us in to a gutsy RnB tenor solo and Grant Green’s finger picking good guitar (there will be much more about Grant Green in future posts).

There’s a YouTube link to “Camp Meetin’ posted by groove addict here:-

The closing track on Side 1 ‘Dem Tambourines’ is another stormer but probably not for those of immobile feet and a gentle jazz disposition- who may like Sonny Clark’s wonderful piano on Pigeon Peas.  The link to ‘Dem Tambourines’ posted on YouTube by retrospeko follows:-

The band etc:-  Don Wilkerson (tenor sax); Grant Green (guitar) Sonny Clark (piano); Butch Warren (bass) Billy Higgins (drums).  Recorded: 18 June 1962.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Dudley Williams.  Cover photo: Reid Miles.  Issued as Blue Note 4107.

What a graphically strong cover, by the way!

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