Hank Crawford, another of the cadre of Ray Charles saxophonists who went on to their own fame, died on January 29. David “Fathead” Newman and Leroy “Hog” Cooper, Crawford’s colleagues in the Charles band, died earlier last month. Crawford’s alto, Newman’s tenor and Cooper’s baritone saxophones were integral to Charles’s big band in the 1950s and early ’60s.
Crawford’s recording and touring bands were among the finest medium-sized groups of the era. Some of his earliest and best work is contained in this two-CD set. A gifted soloist, composer and arranger, Crawford continued to make superb ensemble recordings throughout his active career. This 1984 album is representative of his ability to merge sophistication in his writing with the deep blues feeling that almost always resulted in the word “soul” being applied in discussions of his music. When he came of age, Memphis, Tennessee, was producing a storied group of jazz musicians that also included Charles Lloyd, Harold Mabern, George Coleman, Booker Little and Phineas Newborn, Jr.
Crawford was 74.