Hank Crawford The Soul Clinic (Atlantic 1962)

Hank Crawford’s landmark 1962 album The Soul Clinic boasts the saxophonist’s unique, ‘singing’ tone, the swinginest (Ray Charles) band in the land and a mind-boggling trumpet solo by the unknown Philip Gilbeau to boot. Bingo.

Hank Crawford - The Soul Clinic


Hank Crawford (alto saxophone, piano), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor saxophone), Phil Gilbeau (trumpet), John Hunt (trumpet), Leroy “Hog” Cooper (baritone saxophone), Edgar Willis (bass), Bruno Carr (drums), Milt Turner (drums)


on October 7, 1960, February 24 & May 2, 1961 at Atlantic Recording Studio, NYC


as SD 1372 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Please Send Me Someone To Love
Easy Living
What A Difference A Day Makes
Side B:
Me And My Baby
Lorelei’s Lament
Blue Stone

Pick a winner: Crawford’s More Soul, The Soul Clinic or From The Heart. Good luck. Not that it matters, saxophonist Hank Crawford’s first three albums for Atlantic are equally impressive. It depends on your mood. Bennie “Hank” Crawford, who played alto and baritone saxophone in the Ray Charles band and served as its musical director from 1958 to 1963, went on and recorded more excellent albums for Atlantic in the sixties like True Blue and Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul and churned out hip, down-home tunes as Skunky Green and Whispering Grass. Between his Atlantic period and the latter stages of his career spent at the Milestone label with the likes of Houston Person and organist Jimmy McGriff, Crawford switched to a more polished approach on the CTI imprint Kudu. Kudu highlights are We Got A Good Thing Going On and Wildflower.

Well, highlights… Sales-and-solo-wise for sure. Wildflower climbed the charts. Crawford’s highly personal style remained largely intact. But production-wise, get a break. His Kudu albums might be your cup of tea but it’s a bottle of snake piss for the Flophouse Floor Manager. Producer Creed Taylor devised a smart formula, which he should be given credit for, but those albums lack exactly what makes the Atlantic albums jewels to be treasured for the ages: the sound of Crawford’s seven-piece band which did much to steer Ray Charles to unforgettable heights.

That sound wasn’t devised out of thin air. The albums feature steady members of the Ray Charles band, a tight-knit group if ever there was one. Crawford coming aboard in 1958 gave the Ray Charles group a big boost, first by his indelible sax playing, soon after by his arranging skills. Consequently, the indirect impact of Crawford on popular music cannot be overstated. The sound of two trumpets, alto, tenor and baritone that Crawford arranged has lingered on in the memories of music lovers as the Ray Charles period to-go-to and became the trademark Crawford sound in the sixties. Effectively, the sound of a modern blues band, one of the last in a line that had been developed onwards from the forties by Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan, Arnett Cobb and Bull Moose Jackson. Irresistable outfits.

Up until the 1960 and 1961 sessions of The Soul Clinic, Crawford had appeared on iconic Ray Charles hit singles on Atlantic such as What I’d Say and LP’s as the illustrious Ray Charles At Newport. Crawford shared many duties with David “Fathead” Newman, who went a bit further back with Ray Charles to 1957’s recordings like Doodlin’. Crawford, Newman, trumpeter John Hunt, drummer Milt Turner and bassist Edgar Willis cooperated on the What I’d Say LP, as well as the live album In Person. (minus Turner) Genius Hits The Road includes Crawford, Newman, baritone saxophonist Leroy “Hog” Cooper, Hunt and Turner. Thus, these guys had played, lived and breathed together both in the studio and on the road.

Trumpeter Philip Gilbeau was a newbie in this bunch, who would get his chance to stretch out on Ray Charles’ Impulse album Genius + Soul = Jazz. Drummer Bruno Carr would be part of Ray Charles’ working band on and off in the early sixties. The career of the unknown Carr reveals some interesting associations with, among others, Crawford, Newman, Nat Adderley, Herbie Mann, Dave Pike and Roy Ayers. Finally, Crawford and other members of this line up are also featured on David “Fathead” Newman’s Atlantic albums Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David “Fathead” Newman and Fathead Comes On. The reason why I go at length to explain the various connections between these musicians is because I feel that the colleagues of Crawford, Newman and Ray Charles are unsung heroes of r&b and soul jazz. Take a deep breath, look at the titles of the before-mentioned albums and singles and let it sink in for a while… Got it?

The way the group builds up a tune is extraordinary. Perhaps by shaking their hips, drummer Bruno Carr and bassist Edgar Willis faultlessly guess the exact amount of small change residing in each other’s side pockets. Locked tight. Fish, hook and line. Ever so slightly, like for instance in the Crawford composition Blue Stone, Carr and Willis stoke up the fire once Crawford’s tenor is getting ready to gain momentum. Much of the album’s charm is brought about by the sonorous arrangements of Crawford. The warm-blooded, transparant production of Tom Dowd chips in magnificently. Except Please Send Me Someone To Love, that includes piano comping by Crawford, the album’s repertoire is piano-less. That worked out beautifully, creating room for the lucid voices of the group’s hard-working gentlemen from the South.

Where can I find a contemporary saxophonist with the kind of one-of-a-kind sound as Hank Crawford? You tell me. Wish me luck. I’d have to take off my pince nez and borrow the looking glass of Sherlock Holmes. Highly unlikely that Hank Crawford is part of the curriculum of the contemporary conservatories. Should be elemental, Hank presents a how-to-find-your-voice course without peer. Off course, not everybody is born in Memphis, main cradle of blues and r&b. But background only doesn’t account for Crawford’s peculiar style. With every repeated listen, awe, hearthy laughter and joy builds up and builds up, until the balloon bursts and tears of joy spray all over the floor. He’s such a stubborn man, doggedly making his point! So convinced of his method and message! Crawford, heard on alto on The Soul Clinic, generally stays close to the melody, points out the bare essentials of the tune, puts it through the wringer until the last drop. Assumingly, Crawford is conscious of every word of the tunes. He tackles the themes with his probing tone and delicate vibrato. A sparse use of fluid bop runs, spicy asides, enhance the bigger picture of his blues-drenched message. Because, essentially, Crawford’s voice is the voice of a blues singer. Not exactly hollering on the fields, Crawford nevertheless unburdens his heart, slightly sweating, sensuously. The sense of hurt is there, he’s been assisting Brother Ray, which obviously must’ve had its effect. But while Brother Ray, when singing the blues, chops out his liver to bleed on the table in front of us, Crawford passes his troubles on a rusty copper plate.

Charlie Parker, the greatest alto saxophonist in the history of jazz, did a thousand things with the blues. The ambidextrous monster musician Steve Coleman, reportedly, dubbed it ‘space blues’. On the other side of the spectrum, Hank Crawford focuses on the core of the blues. But how!

The repertoire is evenly divided between merrily bouncing swingers like the Crawford original Playmates and Horace Silver’s Me And My Baby, gorgeous ballads like Robin/Grainger’s Easy Living and the popular tune What A Difference A Day Makes, which was a hit for Dinah Washington in 1959. The latter is a vehicle for trumpeter Philip Gilbeau. As if Hank isn’t enough to drive you wild, the angels of swing sent down brother Phil Gilbeau. Brash, jubilant, linking Satchmo to crisp modern jazz, Gilbeau’s tale reveals the feelings of a man who loves his woman, which nevertheless left him stranded at a roadside diner after a heated argument. You see him standing outside at the parking lot, one heel on the springboard of his 1958 Packard, swinging a fist, a sudden act of mad laughter that can hardly conceal the yearning, the tenderness, the joy of life. This couple is bound to make up, will be back soon in a barbecue joint, ribs and fries, chili in a bowl, hashbrowns over easy, the whole shebang except candlelight… You hear him think, ‘might be steppin’ into that phonebooth, be callin’ Hank in a minute, just to say I keep-a-rollin’ with my baby…’ Hank understands. The band understands. The guys all sing that song. Not only seperately, but also as the entity that made those albums like The Soul Clinic beautiful, essential, deep blue as the ocean.

Shirley Scott Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes (Atlantic 1969)

Shirley Scott’s dressed up for the rock age. The musical garments don’t really suit the experienced, tasteful organist.

Shirley Scott - Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes


Shirley Scott (organ), Ernie Royal (trumpet A1 & A2 & B1-B4), King Curtis (tenor saxophone A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Hank Crawford (alto and baritone saxophone A1 & A2 & B1-B4), David Newman (tenor saxophone, flute A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Richard Tee (piano A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Eric Gale (guitar), Chuck Rainey (bass A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Jerry Jemmott (bass A3), Bernard Purdie (drums A1, A3 & B1, B2), Jimmy Johnson (drums A2 & B3, B4)


on September 10, 1968 in Atlantic Studios, NYC and July 9 & 10, 1969 in Regent Sound Studios, NYC


as SD 1532 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
It’s Your Thing
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
Side B:
Stand By Me
Get Back
More Today Than Yesterday

From the mid-fifties to the early seventies Shirley Scott was one of the most successful and prolific organ jazz players around, presenting a cocktail of standards and bluesy jazz either with her trio or with the addition of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Scott’s husband, tenorist Stanley Turrentine. Her fairly traditional work, perhaps more in the mould of Milt Buckner than Jimmy Smith, is recorded on King, Prestige, Impulse and (with Turrentine) Blue Note. Near the end of the decade Scott signed with Atlantic. Let’s try for something hip, Scott presumably must’ve thought. Her soul-heavy album Shirley Scott And The Soul Saxes sold reasonably well and is sandwiched between her Atlantic debut Soul Song and final release, the less succesful Something. In 1971 Scott switched to Chicago’s Cadet label, adding some challenging originals to her sets of evergreens and contemporary pop and soul. Shirley Scott And The Soul Saxes is not only soul-heavy, but rock-heavy as well. That’s the bad part.

But first the good part. Scott turns in tasty performances, she really ‘sings’ on (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – the Goffin/King classic written for Aretha Franklin – and her gospel intro on I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free is enticing foreplay to a vibrant solo. This bouncy, medium-tempo tune is the album’s highlight. Coincidentally, it’s the only song on the album without horn parts. More Today Than Yesterday – a 1969 hit by The Spiral Staircase – is also one of the better performances. The vibe is relaxed and understatement is the main objective.

The album benefits from a tight-knit group of gifted sidemen. However, there are a couple of downsides. Despite the non-pareil funk qualities of drummers Bernard Purdie and Jimmy Johnson, the beat remains mechanic. Moreover, the promising repertoire suffers from bombastic production and arrangements. The sax section does its fair share of harmony, but sax solo’s are few and concise. Ain’t that peculiar? After all, King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman – some heavy artillery there! – are prominently billed on the front cover. It’s a waste of talent. The bits they do contribute are excellent, especially Curtis’ solo on The Isley Brothers hit It’s Your Thing.

Guitarist Eric Gale had talent in abundance, but it seems he ended up at the wrong session. Considering Gale’s overdrive guitar sound and distorted licks, a sparring date with Jimmy Page of label mates Led Zeppelin would be more on target. The low point of the album is The Beatles’ Get Back. Its ridiculously fast tempo and over-excited ambience overshadows the solid statements by Shirley Scott.

That Atlantic Records lay heavy stress on a rock sound is unfortunate. A more sparse, earthy and less frenzied approach such as the label used for soul stars like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett would’ve benefited Shirley Scott much more. Sometimes dressing up an artist for the new age can only go that far.

David “Fathead” Newman Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman (Atlantic 1958)

Do you know that feeling of hearing a piece of music that quite literally makes you jump for joy against the ceiling? The music within the grooves of the album Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David “Fathead” Newman has that kind of effect. Its bucket boils over with intoxicating energy and exhilarating swing.



David “Fathead” Newman (tenor and alto saxophone), Bennie Crawford (baritone saxophone), Marcus Belgrave (trumpet), Ray Charles (piano), Edgar Willis (bass), Milt Hinton (drums)


on November 5, 1958 in Atlantic Recording Studios, NYC


as SD 1304 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Hard Times
Weird Beard
Willow Weep For Me
Bill For Bennie
Side B:
Sweet Eyes
Mean To Me
Tin Tin Deo

Texan saxophonist David Newman had been a part of the Ray Charles band since 1954, mostly on tenor, but he played baritone and his first choice, alto, as well. Newman’s solo debut on Atlantic came about on the instigation of Ray Charles. The decision to back the saxophonist with the entire Ray Charles crew proofs to be a wise one. What a group of players it is! They bring coherence and continuity of thought while, simultaneously, deliver remarkable individual statements. Brother Ray himself contributes short solo’s on every tune. These are some of the many highlights of this session.

Central to the proceedings is the lively tenor and alto of David “Fathead” Newman. For a start, he makes Hard Times – the Paul Mitchell tune, not the Ray Charles blues – completely his own with a hard pitch and vocalised style; a combination that suits this bouncy, mid-tempo swinger very well.

There are a couple of outstanding tunes and arrangements by Hank Crawford, (still credited as Bennie Crawford) who was chief arranger and saxophonist in Ray Charles’ group and plays fresh and adequate baritone saxophone for this occasion. Weird Beard (a giddy reference to trumpeter Marcus Belgrave’s goatee) is a Horace Silver-type, old-timey blues tune with a characteristic bridge. It has the kind of heavy swing and deep blues feeling comparable to the grooviest cuts of Cannonball Adderley and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Newman blows brisk and confident phrases in your face that you’re not likely to forget.

Bill For Bennie is played by the sextet but sounds like a big band. It’s an uptempo swinger. All soloists are fiery and the unisono horn parts stimulate them to even more intense parts. This group is so amazingly tight! The fast-tempoed Sweet Eyes is another winner by Hank Crawford. The tough, jive-style big band drumming elevates the tune to relentless swing. Ray Charles deserves special mention for the way he brings out the best of the soloists on this album with playful triplets and clear-headed left hand chords. The swift solo of Ray Charles also reminds us (and reminded the listeners back then) of the more than average jazz knowledge that the foremost progenitor of soul music had in stock.

As a matter of fact, it is obvious that the whole band has got its chops together. There isn’t a wrong note and every one of them is full of vigour. The jazz world had become acquainted with The Ray Charles Band’s jazz credentials at the Newport jazz festival, as it reportedly left the crowd and critics stunned. Mostly, David Newman takes first choruses, as in the blues standard Willow Weep For Me, which he graces with heartfelt alto work. The trumpet solo of Marcus Belgrave in the blues tune Fathead is a mix of buoyancy, long flowing lines and above average proficiency.

With the help of his mates from the Ray Charles Band, and the boss himself, David “Fathead” Newman delivered a truly stunning album.

Hank Crawford Mr. Blues (Atlantic 1967)

Not only did Hank Crawford play baritone and alto sax in the band of Ray Charles, he also was its director from 1959 to 1963. Much of the charm of Charles’ legendary working band and recordings such as Atlantic’s Ray Charles In Person lay in the exquisite, soulful and gospel-tinged arrangements of Crawford. The Ray Charles band was admired by both the r&b audience and jazz world. Both during and after his tenure with Ray Charles, Crawford recorded a magnificent string of albums on Atlantic in his own right, that crossed boundaries between jazz and r&b. Mr. Blues is Crawford’s eight release on Atlantic.

Hank Crawford - Mr. Blues


Hank Crawford (alto sax A2-A5 & B1, B2, B4, piano A1, B3), Wendell Harrison (tenor sax), Lonnie Shaw (baritone sax A1-A5, B1, B2, B4), Lonnie Shaw (baritone sax B3), John Hunt (trumpet), Fielder Floyd (trumpet), Sonny Forriest (guitar A1, A2, A4, B1, B4), Charles Green (bass A1-A3, A5, B2, B3) Charles Dungey (bass A4), Charles Lindsay (bass B1, B4), Isaac Walton (drums A1, A2), Wilbert Hogan (drums A3, B1, B4), Joe Dukes (drums A4), Milt Turner (drums A5, B2, B3)


on October 17 & 29, November 17, 1965 and January 14 & 19, March 21, 1966


as Atlantic 1470 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
Mr. Blues
On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)
Hush Puppies
Danger Zone
Route 66
Side B:
Lonely Avenue
Smoky City
The Turfer

Taking into account soaring solo’s like the one in Percy Mayfield’s blues ballad Danger Zone, the designation ‘Mr. Blues’ is duly justified. Paradoxically, however, the two most straightforward blues tunes are the weakest links on Mr. Blues. Both the title track, on which Crawford makes a piano appearance, and Lonely Avenue, are formulaic. Usually, what jazzmen do with the blues is adding something like an extended bar pattern, a turnaround, a peculiar rhythmic figure or tag ending. Crawford doesn’t add anything special to Mr. Blues and Lonely Avenue. The tunes also suffer from rather crude guitar solo’s. Crawford’s version of Lonely Avenue does not lack energy but the excitement of Ray Charles’ 1956 hit performance of Doc Pomus’ composition is far away.

However, it’s incorporating blues ‘feeling’ into jazz in a sophisticated manner, instead of playing blues matter-of-factly, what makes Crawford’s approach special. A good example is On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever), which contains suave horn voicings behind Crawford’s alto horn, followed by a jumpin’ and rockin’ unisono horn part; a method that succesfully makes a small group of four horns sound very big.

Tunes like this – waltz blues Hush Puppies, a shuffle version of Bob Troupe’s Route 66 and the ballad Teardrops – that combine the anguised, vocal-like style of Crawford with his tough arrangements are utterly irresistable. There’s also nothing wrong with the third and fourth Crawford originals that round off the album: Smoky City is an uplifting piano boogiewoogie and The Turfer is a blues with a boogaloo rhythm that sounds like an edgy back-up track for Otis Rush or Magic Sam.

Hank Crawford’s crossover endeavors were fundamental in keeping jazz vital. Mr. Blues may not be Crawford’s quintessential Atlantic album, but it definitely does the job.