Sonny Clark: A Recommended Playlist

Sonny Clark made some of his most affecting musical expressions as a sideman.  Here are a few recommendations with him as leader and sideman.  *Indicates two starting points.

Buddy DeFranco: 1954-56. Verve. Inexplicably, the music recorded by clarinetist DeFranco with Clark has been out of print, for the most part, for decades.  Do what you can to find some of these 39 tracks, particularly “You Go to My Head,” in which DeFranco and Clark engage in a stunning dialogue of simultaneous solos.

Serge Chaloff: Blue Serge. 1956.  Capitol.

Larance (aka. Lawrence) Marable: Tenorman.  1956.  Jazz West.

Clifford Jordan: Cliff Craft. 1957. Blue Note.

Lou Donaldson: Lou Takes Off.  1957.  Blue Note.

Sonny Clark: Cool Struttin’. 1958.  Blue Note.

Sonny Clark: My Conception. 1957-1959.  Blue Note.

*Sonny Clark: Leapin’ and Lopin’. 1961.  Blue Note.

*Grant Green: The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark.  1961-62.  Blue Note.

Dexter Gordon: Go and A Swinging Affair.  1962.  Blue Note.

Stanley Turrentine: Jubilee Shout.  October 1962.  Blue Note.  With old friends from Pittsburgh, the brothers Stanley (saxophone) and Tommy (trumpet) Turrentine.  Clark’s last recording session.

Sonny Clark: There are a few recordings of Clark in a trio format, each having some essential moments, such as the tune “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” from the 1957 Blue Note recording with Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums, and the extraordinary “Nica” on the 1960 Time/Bainbridge recording with George Duvivier on bass and Max Roach on drums.  But generally I enjoy his playing more in other formats.

-Sam Stephenson


  1. Jeff Kent Said,

    January 28, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

    I was introduced to the music of Sonny Clark via John Zorn’s News For Lulu project. I liked the melodies so much I set out to collect all of Sonny’s recorded works. If you haven’t heard the Zorn yet you should check it out. Hard Bop tunes arranged for alto, trombone and guitar. Zorn also has a record called The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet.

  2. jeff caltabiano Said,

    January 29, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

    Cool list. I was also probably introduced to his music through The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet and have since gone on to collect much of Clark’s music. Here’s a NY Times review of the tribute album:
    By the way, among six saxophonists named Sonny (Criss, Fortune, Red, Rollins, Simmons, and Stitt), Clark only ever recorded with Rollins. Too bad Clark didn’t play on the album ‘Sonny Side Up’ along with Rollins and Stitt.