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Sonny Criss

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  • Born: Memphis, TN
  • Died: Los Angeles, CA
  • Years Active: 1960s, 1970s

Albums

Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Alto saxophonist William "Sonny" Criss was an anomaly of the jazz musicians who came up during the bebop era. Criss moved to Los Angeles from Memphis at the age of 15, and at 19 played in Howard McGhee's band with Charlie Parker and Teddy Edwards. As was the norm for every alto player, Parker exerted a huge influence on Criss' playing. His beefy, earthy tone can be heard on a number of Savoy sessions beginning the next year. Criss drifted, playing in jazz and R&B groups, including those led by Johnny Otis, Billy Eckstine, and Stan Kenton. After joining Buddy Rich in 1956, Criss recorded Jazz U.S.A. for Imperial as a leader; it's one of the true underground classics of the hard bop era. Imperial -- mainly an R&B label specializing in New Orleans acts such as Fats Domino -- put no promotional push behind it. Nonetheless, he was able to cut two more sessions for the label: the excellent Go Man! and Sonny Criss Plays Cole Porter. Still playing with Rich, Criss cut At the Crossroads while on tour in Chicago for the Peacock label; the set featured Wynton Kelly and was critically well received. The saxophonist continued to work, fronting his own band in Los Angeles and gigging with others for brief out-of-town jaunts. He signed with Prestige in 1965 and issued a host of fine recordings, This Is Criss! and Sonny's Dream among them. Criss also cut various sessions for Xanadu, Muse, and ABC/Impulse near the end of his life. He committed suicide in 1977 due to the painful consequences of stomach cancer. His fine Crisscraft and Out of Nowhere albums were reissued on CDs, as were his complete Imperial recordings.

eMusic Features

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New This Week: Cloud Nothings, Craig Finn and More

By J. Edward Keyes, Editor-in-Chief

The first HUGE new release day of 2012, so strap in and get ready for a pretty comprehensive rundown! Dave Sumner's got your jazz picks, and I've got the rest. Here we go! Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory: ALBUM OF THE DAY. Dylan Baldi grows up in a nanosecond, making a snarling rock record that hurtles forward with the speed and fury of a meteor. The sonic touchstones here are '90s emo greats like Jawbreaker, the… more »