Hank Crawford

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Hank Crawford
Birth name Bennie Ross Crawford, Jr
Born (1934-12-21)December 21, 1934
Origin Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Died January 29, 2009(2009-01-29) (aged 74)
Genres R&B, Hard bop, Jazz-funk, Soul jazz
Occupation(s) Saxophonist, Songwriter
Instruments Alto/Baritone Saxophone, Piano
Years active 1958–2009
Labels Milestone, Atlantic
Associated acts Jimmy McGriff, Richie Cole

Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford, Jr. (December 21, 1934 – January 29, 2009) was an American R&B, hard bop, jazz-funk, soul jazz alto saxophonist, arranger and songwriter. Crawford was musical director for Ray Charles before embarking on a solo career, during which he released many well-regarded albums for jazz record labels CTI Records and then Milestone Records.

Biography[edit]

Crawford was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He began formal piano studies at the age of nine and was soon playing for his church choir. His father had brought an alto saxophone home from the service and when Hank entered Manassas High School, he took it up in order to join the band. He credits Charlie Parker, Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges as early influences.

Crawford appears on an early 1952 Memphis recording for B.B. King with a band including Ben Branch and Ike Turner.

In 1958 Crawford went to college at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at TSU, he majored in music studying theory and composition, as well as playing alto and baritone saxophone in the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians. He also led his own rock 'n' roll quartet, "Little Hank and the Rhythm Kings". His bandmates all thought he looked and sounded just like Hank O'Day, a legendary local saxophonist, which earned him the nickname "Hank".[1] This is when Crawford met Ray Charles, who hired Crawford originally as a baritone saxophonist. Crawford switched to alto in 1959 and remained with Charles' band—becoming its musical director until 1963.[2]

When Crawford left Ray Charles in 1963 to form his own septet, he had already established himself with several albums for Atlantic Records. From 1960 until 1970, he recorded twelve LPs for the label, many while balancing his earlier duties as Ray’s director. He released such pre-crossover hits as “Misty”, “The Peeper”, “Skunky Green”, and “Whispering Grass”.

He also has done musical arrangement for Etta James, Lou Rawls, and others.[3] Much of his career has been in R&B, but in the 1970s he had several successful jazz albums, with I Hear a Symphony reaching 11 on Billboard's Jazz albums list and 159 for Pop albums.[4]

David Sanborn cites Crawford as being one of his primary influences.[5][6] Crawford is recognized by saxophonists as having a particularly unique and pleasing sound.[7] In 1981, he featured, with fellow horn players Ronnie Cuber and David Newman, on B. B. King's There Must Be a Better World Somewhere.

In 1983 he moved to Milestone Records as a premier arranger, soloist, and composer, writing for small bands including guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Jimmy McGriff, and Dr. John.[8] In 1986, Crawford began working with blues-jazz organ master Jimmy McGriff. They recorded four co-leader dates for Milestone Records: Soul Survivors, Steppin’ Up, On the Blue Side, and Road Tested, and toured together extensively.

The new century found Crawford shifting gears and going for a more mainstream jazz set in his 2000 release The World of Hank Crawford. Though the songs are compositions from jazz masters such as Duke Ellington and Tadd Dameron, he delivers in that sanctified church sound that is his trademark. Followed by The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff (2001), and Back (2007).

He had two children, Michael A. Crawford and Sherri L. Crawford, and a grandchild, Tiffany M. Crawford.

Discography[edit]

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year Title Label
1960 More Soul Atlantic
1961 The Soul Clinic Atlantic
1962 From the Heart Atlantic
1963 Soul of the Ballad Atlantic
1964 True Blue Atlantic
1965 Dig These Blues Atlantic
1966 After Hours Atlantic
1967 Mr. Blues Atlantic
1968 Double Cross Atlantic
1969 Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul Atlantic
1971 It's a Funky Thing to Do Cotillion (Atlantic)
1972 Help Me Make it Through the Night Kudu (CTI Records)
1972 We Got a Good Thing Going Kudu
1973 Wildflower Kudu
1974 Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing Kudu
1975 I Hear A Symphony Kudu
1976 Hank Crawford's Back Kudu
1977 Tico Rico Kudu
1978 Cajun Sunrise Kudu
1980 Centerpiece (Hank Crawford & Calvin Newborne) Buddah Records
1982 Midnight Ramble Milestone Records
1983 Indigo Blue Milestone
1984 Down On The Deuce Milestone
1985 Roadhouse Symphony Milestone
1986 Soul Survivors (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Milestone
1986 Mr. Chips Milestone
1987 Steppin' Up (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Milestone
1989 Night Beat Milestone
1989 On the Blue Side (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Milestone
1990 Groove Master Milestone
1990 Bossa International (Richie Cole and Hank Crawford) Milestone
1993 South Central Milestone
1994 Right Turn On Blue (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Telarc
1995 Blues Groove (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Telarc
1996 Tight Milestone
1997 Road Tested (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Milestone
1998 After Dark Milestone
1999 Crunch Time (Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff) Milestone
2000 The World of Hank Crawford Milestone
2001 The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff Milestone
2007 Back King

As sideman[edit]

With Ray Charles

With Eric Clapton

With Grant Green

With Johnny Hammond

With B.B. King

With Shirley Scott

With Janis Siegel

  • The Tender Trap (Monarch, 1999)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary at L.A. Times
  2. ^ Lydon, Michael. Ray Charles: Man and Music, Routledge, p. 144 (2004) - ISBN 0-415-97043-1
  3. ^ Down Beat Profile
  4. ^ All Music: Hank Crawford
  5. ^ Fairweather, Digby. The Rough Guide to Jazz, Rough Guides, p. 694 (2004) - ISBN 1-84353-256-5
  6. ^ Balfany, Greg (January–February 1989). "David Sanborn". Saxophone Journal 13 (4). pp. 28–31. 
  7. ^ Hank Crawford on Nightmusic on YouTube
  8. ^ Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, p. 133 (2003) - ISBN 0-87930-736-6

External links[edit]