Sonny Clark

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Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark.jpg
Background information
Birth nameConrad Yeatis Clark
Born(1931-07-21)July 21, 1931
Herminie, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedJanuary 13, 1963(1963-01-13) (aged 31)
New York City, New York, United States
GenresJazz, hard bop
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsPiano
Years active1953–1962
LabelsBlue Note
Associated actsCurtis Fuller, Jackie McLean, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Grant Green, Dexter Gordon, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Serge Chaloff, Max Roach, George Duvivier, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Wardell Gray, Bennie Green, Clifford Jordan, Buddy DeFranco, Oscar Pettiford
 
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Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark.jpg
Background information
Birth nameConrad Yeatis Clark
Born(1931-07-21)July 21, 1931
Herminie, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedJanuary 13, 1963(1963-01-13) (aged 31)
New York City, New York, United States
GenresJazz, hard bop
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsPiano
Years active1953–1962
LabelsBlue Note
Associated actsCurtis Fuller, Jackie McLean, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Grant Green, Dexter Gordon, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Serge Chaloff, Max Roach, George Duvivier, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Wardell Gray, Bennie Green, Clifford Jordan, Buddy DeFranco, Oscar Pettiford

Conrad Yeatis "Sonny" Clark (July 21, 1931 – January 13, 1963) was an American jazz pianist who mainly worked in the hard bop idiom.[1]

Early life[edit]

Clark was born and raised in Herminie, Pennsylvania, a coal mining town east of Pittsburgh.[2] His parents were originally from Stone Mountain, Georgia.[2] His miner father, Emory Clark, died of a lung disease two weeks after Sonny was born.[2] Sonny was the youngest of eight children.[2] At age 12, he moved to Pittsburgh.

Later life and career[edit]

When visiting an aunt in California at age 20, Clark decided to stay and began working with saxophonist Wardell Gray. Clark went to San Francisco with Oscar Pettiford and after a couple months, was working with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco in 1953. Clark toured the United States and Europe with DeFranco until January 1956, when he joined The Lighthouse All-Stars, led by bassist Howard Rumsey.

Wishing to return to the east coast, Clark served as accompanist for singer Dinah Washington in February 1957 in order to relocate to New York City. In New York, Clark was often requested as a sideman by many musicians, partly because of his rhythmic comping. He frequently recorded for Blue Note Records, playing as a sideman with many hard bop players, including Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer, Curtis Fuller, Grant Green, Philly Joe Jones, Clifford Jordan, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Art Taylor, and Wilbur Ware. He also recorded sessions with Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday, Stanley Turrentine, and Lee Morgan.

As a band leader, Clark recorded albums Dial "S" for Sonny (1957), Sonny's Crib (1957), Sonny Clark Trio (1957), with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, and Cool Struttin' (1958). Sonny Clark Trio, with George Duvivier and Max Roach was released in 1960.

Clark died of a heart attack in New York City,[3] although commentators attribute the early death to Clark's drug and alcohol abuse.[3][4][5]

Legacy[edit]

Close friend and fellow jazz pianist Bill Evans dedicated the composition "NYC's No Lark" (an anagram of "Sonny Clark") to him after his death, included on Evans' Conversations with Myself (1963). John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, Ray Drummond, and Bobby Previte recorded an album of Clark's compositions, Voodoo (1985), as The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet. Zorn also recorded several of Clark's compositions with Bill Frisell and George Lewis on News for Lulu (1988) and More News for Lulu (1992).

Discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

Compilations

As sideman[edit]

With Tina Brooks

With Serge Chaloff

With Sonny Criss

With Buddy DeFranco

With Lou Donaldson

With Curtis Fuller

With Dexter Gordon

With Bennie Green

With Grant Green[6]

These albums were recorded in 1961-62 for Blue Note, but not released until 1980. They have since been reissued as The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark.

With Johnny Griffin

With John Jenkins

With Philly Joe Jones

With Clifford Jordan

With Jackie McLean

With Hank Mobley

With Lee Morgan

With Ike Quebec

With Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse

With Louis Smith

With Stanley Turrentine

With Don Wilkerson

References[edit]

  1. ^ Palmer, Robert (March 18, 1987). "The Pop Life; Recalling Sonny Clark". The New York Times. Retrieved on September 1, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d Stephenson, Sam (January 13, 2011) "Notes from a Biographer: Sonny Clark". The Paris Review.
  3. ^ a b Blue Note Records: the biography By Richard Cook
  4. ^ Bebop By Scott Yanow p. 252
  5. ^ The rough guide to jazz By Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, Brian Priestley. p. 117
  6. ^ Reid Thompson. "Grant Green Quarter Recordings with Sonny Clark, reviewed by All That Jazz". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 

External links[edit]