from Memphis, TN
October 23, 1927 - November 19, 1977 (age 50)
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 RB 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 RB 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. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
Sonny Criss - Crisscraft (Full Album)
Sonny Criss —The Beat Goes On!
Sonny Criss Quartet Feat. Wynton Kelly
Sonny Criss Quartet - Angel Eyes
Sonny Criss 04. "Saturday Morning"
God Bless the Child / Sonny Criss
Sonny Criss Quartet - All the Things You Are
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