Sonny Criss: Black Coffee
Sonny Criss (alto sax)
This Is Criss! (PRCD 30654)
Alan Dawson (drums).
Composed by Sonny Burke & Paul Francis Webster.
Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 21, 1966
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
As originally rendered by Sarah Vaughan back in 1949, "Black Coffee" was a slow-moving, bluesy number, and subsequent recordings tend to also be vocal jazz renditions. Not Sonny Criss's version, though. While he employs a similarly slow tempo, his alto sax voicings set this apart.
For the first three minutes, Criss squeezes out every last drop of blues with a lithe, buttery approach. As if to follow the lyric, "It's driving me crazy just waiting for my baby / To maybe come around," the altoist suddenly throws in flawless urgent bebop phrases, but without ever losing sight of the blues. After pianist Walter Davis's restrained solo, Criss returns to rekindle the dual blues emotions of sulking and frustration, as effectively before.
The top of the CD cover for This Is Criss states, "Here is an alto saxophonist whose consummate artistry approaches perfection." Listening to the first cut from this album confirms a rarity: Truth in advertising.
Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron