Sonny Criss


This Is Criss!

  • Release Date: 01 Jul 2008
  • PRCD-30654

In 1966 producer Don Schlitten imported Sonny Criss to New York for a recording session with a rhythm section handpicked for their ability to swing and for their understanding of the bebop methods that drove Criss. Determined to enhance the career of an alto saxophonist he considered an overlooked genius of the modern era, Schlitten thus provided the circumstance for one of Criss's great albums. To many listeners, This Is Criss! was a revelation; it presented a fully matured soloist … MORE


Like his labelmates Jaki Byard and Booker Ervin, Sonny Criss left a legacy of often overlooked music on the Prestige label that must be taken into… More

Because of his extraordinary ability as a teenager, Sonny Criss was accepted into a circle of Los Angeles musicians that included Dexter Gordon… More

Alto saxophonist Sonny Criss (1927-1977) had a career of frustrating interruptions, with brief years in the limelight followed by longer periods… More

Musicians have always endeavored to incorporate the popular music of the day into the jazz repertoire, although the effort has too often seemed… More

The luminous alto saxophonist Sonny Criss never got the recognition his talent warranted. His life was marked by a series of frustrations. Still… More

Of Bird's children, the alto saxophonists who grew up in Charlie Parker's image, none had more passion than Sonny Criss. From his first major… More

In 1966 producer Don Schlitten imported Sonny Criss to New York for a recording session with a rhythm section handpicked for their ability to… More




One of the few altoists to emerge in the mid-1940s who had a tone that was apart from that of Charlie Parker, Sonny Criss (1927-1977) always sounded quite individual.

Born in Memphis, Criss grew up in the Los Angeles area. While Parker was his main influence early on, Criss had a heavier sound and also had some Benny Carter in his playing. In 1946 he worked with Howard McGhee’s band at a time when Charlie Parker sometimes sat in. Criss also gigged with Johnny Otis, Al Killian, Gerald Wilson, and a small group that backed Billy Eckstine (1950-51). Criss was on a Jazz At The Philharmonic tour in 1951 and can be heard in top form on Intermission Riff, a live jam session released on Pablo that teams him with trumpeter Joe Newman and tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.

Criss toured with Stan Kenton in 1955, worked with Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars and Buddy Rich’s quartet, and spent 1962-1965 in Europe. Upon his return, he recorded some of his finest work during 1966-1969, seven albums for Prestige: This Is Criss, Portrait of Sonny Criss; Up, Up and Away; The Beat Goes On, Sonny’s Dream, Rockin’ in Rhythm, and I’ll Catch the Sun. All are quartet sets other than Up, Up and Away (a quintet outing with guitarist Tal Farlow) and Sonny’s Dream, which has the altoist backed by a nonet arranged by Horace Tapscott. Throughout these sessions, Criss shows that he was one of the top altoists of the era even though he was greatly underrated.

Sonny Criss continued creating fine music up until the time of his death in 1977, never sounding like anyone but himself.