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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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SONNY CLARK

Leapin' and Lopin'

Blue Note 50999 2 15366 2 5

 

 



 

1. Something Special
2. Deep in a Dream
3. Melody for C
4. Eric Walks
5. Voodoo
6. Midnight Mambo
7. Zellmar's Delight
8. Melody for C (alternate take)
 
Sonny Clark - Piano
Tommy Turrentine - Trumpet
Butch Warren - Bass
Billy Higgins - Drums
Charlie Rouse - Tenor sax (tracks 1, 3-8)
Ike Quebec - Tenor sax (track 2)

 

Sonny Clark has never been a very well-known name among jazz fans, although he has always had his supporters and some people almost idolised him. Bill Evans wrote NYC's No Lark as an anagrammed tribute to the pianist, and a group of musicians led by Wayne Horvitz and John Zorn formed the Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet in the 1980s to perform Sonny's compositions.

Sonny Clark's comparatively short career probably accounts for his absence from the front rank of famous jazz pianists. Drugs and alcohol shortened his life to less than 32 years (1931-1963). His playing career lasted for barely a dozen years, although during that time he played and/or recorded with such stars as Wardell Gray, Buddy De Franco, Dinah Washington and Sonny Rollins.

And his style is difficult to categorise. Some people have compared him to Bud Powell, but Sonny had a smoother touch - although he shared Powell's emphasis on the right hand. In fact one of the pleasures of this 1961 album is Clark's delicate touch on the keyboard. One of the album's highlights is Deep in a Dream - the only tune not written by Sonny or other members of the group. It displays not only Sonny's finesse at the piano but also the enticing, breathy tone of tenorist Ike Quebec, who replaces Charlie Rouse for this one track. It is a mystery why The Penguin Guide to Jazz refers to "choruses of beautiful piano following one another without the slightest hint of strain", since Sonny Clark plays the tune, discreetly decorating the melody, after which Ike Quebec takes the lion's share of the second of two-and-a half choruses.

Charlie Rouse has an entirely different sound on tenor sax from Ike Quebec -- with a harder edge - but he supplies some well-constructed solos, as does Stanley Turrentine's elder brother, Tommy. Sonny Clark's own compositions are mostly in bebop style, with a strong blues influence. But, whether soloing or accompanying, it is the discretion in his choice of notes that may strike the listener as the distinguishing feature of his playing.

Incidentally, this album - remastered by Rudy Van Gelder - is more generous than some Blue Note reissues, clocking in at more than 55 minutes of worthwhile music.

Tony Augarde


 

 

 

 



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