Saturday, October 23, 2010
Another Sonny in the Sanctuary
We perk up when we see the word "underappreciated" attached to any artist. Did we miss something? So often we have, as in the case of jazz saxophonist Sonny Criss. In music the hunt is always on to discover a new or forgotten sound, and possibly correct an oversight. So on we went...
We thought we had something by Criss. The name is familiar, but jazzmen and bluesmen named Sonny are like dogs named Spike. There have been lots of them. The Sanctuary's modest but ever expanding library of jazz includes several albums by saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, but no Sonny Criss. We openly reveal this oversight and intend to fill the void. (Are there any other Sonnys out there we should hear from?)
There he is in the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP and Cassette, sandwiched between pianist Marilyn Crispell (no) and bandleader Bob Crosby (yes), leading with this confusing but nonetheless compelling paragraph:
Criss was perhaps a little too tightly wrapped for the destiny that seemed to await him. Although it was the altogether more robust Sonny Stitt -- with whom Criss is occasionally confused -- to whom Charlie Parker promised "the keys of the Kingdom," it was Criss out on the West Coast who inherited most of the ambiguities of Parker's legacy.
Criss would have been 83 years old today, but he didn't make it nearly that long. In 1977, suffering from stomach cancer, he shot himself in the head. He was 50. If you didn't take time to click the link above, do so now for Criss' wonderful rendering of "On a Clear Day."