By the mid-'50s, William "Sonny" Criss was maturing as a significant voice on the alto saxophone. Heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, much of Criss' earlier output was plagued by a hurried time feel, awkward phrasing and an uncomfortably tense vibrato. Go Man!, one of three dates he did for the Imperial label, showcases a confident, energetic Criss on ten standard tunes and two original lines.
This outstanding 77-minute edition includes two exquisite and rare dates of the incomparable alto saxophonist for the first time ever on one CD, as well as five exceptional bonus tracks. Joined by such talented sidemen as Joe Newman, Ola Hansen, Bennie Green, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Kenny Drew, Tommy Potter, Kenny Clarke and Buddy Rich, Sonny Criss gives truly inspired performances as only he is able. His intensity, soulful lines, and incomparable expressiveness make this edition a true gem.
Along with tenor saxophonist Harold Land, altoist Sonny Criss qualifies as one of the most overlooked giants of West Coast jazz. His sound – like most alto players of the bebop and hard bop days – was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, but Criss still managed to forge an original style featuring a very original melodic bent with loads of bluesy underpinnings. The goods can be optimally previewed on this great Prestige date from 1966. Backed by a trio consisting of pianist Walter Davis, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Alan Dawson, Criss makes fine work of such rare-bird covers as "Sunrise, Sunset" and "When Sunny Gets Blue." There are also some fine originals here, including Criss' own "Steve's Blues" and Davis' classic "Greasy." A perfect start to your Criss collection.
The Impulse 2-on-1 series is a mixed bag: "The Joy Of Sax" (1977) and "Warm And Sonny" (1976). Despite the fact that these recordings are over-produced in the extreme by Esmond Edwards, who jammed up the music with too much percussion, boring guitar solos and strings that were not needed, Sonny Criss and his brilliance on the alto saxophone still shines through. As these were Sonny's last two recordings, done just before his tragic death in 1977, they are worth having, and Sonny sounds beautiful, as always.
Sonny Criss' second of seven Prestige albums (which has been reissued on CD under the OJC imprint) finds the passionate altoist using the same rhythm section as on the earlier date: pianist Walter Davis, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Alan Dawson. Criss is in fine form on five jazz standards (including a heated "Wee" and an emotional version of "Smile") plus Davis' gospel-ish "A Million or More Times." An excellent outing.
“This double disc reissue on Blue Note contains the three releases that alto saxophonist Sonny Criss did for Imperial: Jazz U.S.A., Go Man!, and Plays Cole Porter. These sessions were all recorded in 1956 at a time when Criss had honed his amazing bebop alto precision. These 34 performances contain only five of his originals and are surrounded by mainly standards. The bands consisted of solid lineups with Sonny Clark or Kenny Drew on piano; Barney Kessel on guitar; Leroy Vinnegar, Buddy Clark or Bill Woodson on bass; Larry Bunker on vibes; and Larance Marable or Chuck Thompson taking care of drumming duties. While Criss had a career that erratically spanned the '70s, these Imperial sessions (reissued in glorious mono) contained highly regarded performances of passionate blues, moving ballads, and energetic up- tempo pieces.” AMG
As the tenor sax is not in the same key as an alto, Sonny Rollins would have to transpose a lot of music to take a tribute to Charlie Parker to a high level. Instead Rollins has chosen standards associated with Parker, and recorded them within a year after Bird's passing. This idea poses some peculiar challenges, added on to the fact that the quintet of Rollins starts the proceedings with a 27-minute medley of seven tunes seamlessly stitched together. Pianist Wade Legge, an unsung hero of jazz in the '50s for sure, plays some wonderful music here, and laces the grooves of the tunes together, while bassist George Morrow and the always exceptional drummer Max Roach keep things moving forward.