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Sonny Clark: Standards

C. Michael Bailey By

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Stablemates. In the early 1960s, pianist Sonny Clark (1931-1963) and Guitarist Grant Green (1931-1979) were the top-drawer house musicians in the Blue Note stable. Dexter Gordon considered Sonny Clark his favorite pianist, having him play on the notable Go and A Swinging Affair sessions. Clark also made a series of landmark recordings with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco for Verve. Grant Green was on hand for some of Blue Note's highest moments (Hank Mobley's Workout, Ike Quebec's Blue and Sentimental, and Lee Morgan's Search for a New Land ). These are only the tip of the iceberg credentials for these two musicians.

Presently, both musician's discographies are fortunately being increased with releases from the new Blue Note Standards series. I say fortunately, because these are two journeymen musicians who, while they were never flashy or brash, always could be counted on to provide solid accompaniment and solos and have received little recent recognition.



Together, Again. Sonny Clark's Standards anthologizes music that was either only released as Blue Note singles internationally or in Japan as an LP. The music is accumulated from two sessions, November 16 and December 7, 1958. On the former session, Jymie Merritt played bass while Paul Chambers provided the same support on the latter. Wes Landers played drums on both. The recording sonics are not as bright as that on the Grant Green Standards outing. But they are still pretty good, so this is only a minor complaint.



Mr. Tasteful. This entire collection was conceived, collected, and performed most tastefully. Clark's performance is low-key and reminds one of Red Garland's block chording behind Miles a few years earlier. Both takes of Arlen and Mercer's "Blues in the Night" are much fun (I have been recently listening to Sinatra's version on For Only The Lonely, which makes this instrumental performance that much more fun). "Can't We Be Friends" is a pleasant block-chord romp, propelled by the immutable Paul Chambers (another Blue Note stablemate). "Ain't No Use," the disc's sole blues, recalls Red Garland's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" from Red Garland's Piano (Prestige P-7086/Original Jazz Classics OJCCD-073-2).

Steadfast. This is an excellent, if forgettable, piano trio disc. With the jazz catalog choked with trio recordings, it is fair to ask what sets this disc apart. First, this is a collection of performances from the best that Blue Note had to offer in the late ?50s. Second, while influenced by Bud Powell, Clark gracefully avoids the bop "roman candles" and turns out a group of well-conceived arrangements and solos. Finally, this material has been hard to get in recent years. Sonny Clark (and Grant Green), while making a number of critically recognized recordings under his (their) name(s), was never part of renown jazz combos as was Paul Chambers; they were the workmen at Blue Note, consistently turning out refined, organized solos and ?comping in a variety of settings in support of a variety of bigger names. One only hopes that more of their material, most particularly Clark's Verve recordings with Buddy DeFranco (their Mosaic set has been gone for some years) would be re-released as Clark and Grant Green's Complete Quartet recordings were by Blue Note (57194).



Riding On A Blue Note. Blue Note Records has released four other discs in their Standards series of recordings. They are Lee Morgan (BN23213), The Three Sounds (BN21281), Grant Green (BN21284), and Jimmy Smith (BN21282). All of these recordings contain either previously unreleased or limited released material. All 50s and 60s Blue Note material should be welcomed and accepted as the history it is.

Track Listing:

Blues In The Night, Can't We Be Friends?, Somebody Loves Me, All of You, Dancing In The Dark, I Cover The Water Front, Blues In The Dark (Alternate Take), Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?, Ain't No Use, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Black Velvet, I'm Just A Lucky So and So, The Breeze and I, Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You? (Alternate Take).

Personnel: Sonny Clark (piano); Paul Chambers, Jymie Merritt (bass); Wes Landers (drums).

Title: Standards | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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