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Memory Lane Blues

Sonny Criss and the L.A. All Stars

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Remembering Sonny Criss


In this performance filmed in Los Angles in 1970 Sonny Criss looks on as Teddy Edwards takes his tenor sax solo, before Swingin' out on alto himself. The other musicians are as follows: with Harry "Sweets" Edison, trumpet; Hampton Hawes, piano; Leroy Vinnegar, string bass; and Bobby Thompson, drums.

William "Sonny" Criss (23 October 1927 19 November 1977) was an alto saxophonist of prominence during the bebop era, one of many influenced by Charlie Parker.

William Criss was born in Memphis, Tennessee and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 15. He then went on to play in various bands including Howard McGhee's a band that also featured Charlie Parker.

Criss had developed his own, concise, bluesy tone by this point, and though his basic style did not vary much, his ability on the instrument continued to develop. Nevertheless, he continued to drift from band to band, and played on some records with Johnny Otis, and Billy Eckstine.

His first major break came in 1947, on a number of jam sessions arranged by jazz impresario Norman Granz. In 1956 he signed to Imperial Records, based in New York, and recorded a series of underground classics including "Jazz U.S.A , Go Man!," and "Sonny Criss Plays Cole Porter" featuring pianist Sonny Clark. Prestige signed him in 1965, and he continued to record highly acclaimed albums, mainly rooted in hard bop traditions.

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