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Sonny Clark made only a handful of records as a leader before his untimely demise in 1963 at the age of 31. During his time in New York he was in regular rotation at Blue Note, and consequently recorded with the cream of the hard bop artists associated with the label, including saxophonists Lou Donaldson, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec and Stanley Turrentine, trumpeters Lee Morgan, Art Farmer and Donald Byrd, and guitarist Grant Green. Like Wynton Kelly, another Blue Note pianist popular with his peers for his accompaniment skills, Clark worked with vocalist Dinah Washington in the 1950s, in part as a way to get himself from California, where he was working with musicians like Buddy DeFranco and Howard Rumsey, back to East Coast, explaining to critic Leonard Feather in the late 1950s, “I wanted to see the east again…the fellows out on the west coast have a different sort of feeling, a different approach to jazz. They swing in their own way. But…the eastern musicians play with so much fire and passion.” Clark’s quintet records like “Dial S For Sonny,” Leapin’ and Lopin’” and “Cool Struttin’” certainly exemplify that “Eastern” aesthetic, epitomizing everything there is to dig about the classic late-50s/early 60s hard bop approach.
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