Sonny Cox The Wailer (Cadet 1966)

From the depths of the Argo/Cadet archives, a wailer from The Windy City.

Sonny Cox - The Wailer


Sonny Cox (alto saxophone), Ken Prince (organ), John Howell, Arthur Hoyle and Paul Serrano (trumpet), John Avant (trombone), Rubin Cooper or Lenard Dross (baritone saxophone), Bobby Robinson or Roland Faulkner (guitar), Cleveland Eaton (bass), Maurice White (drums)


in January 1966 at Ter-Mar Studios, Chicago


as Cadet 765 in 1966

Track listing

Side A:
Come Rain Or Come Shine
I’m Just A Lucky So And So
The Retreat Song (Jikele Maweni)
Side B:
Berimbau (The Girls From Bahia)
The Wailer
For Sentimental Reasons

In keeping with the policy of mother company Chess and Chicago’s taste for the real stuff ever since Afro-Americans had migrated north from the Delta, Argo/Cadet focused not so much on new developments as accessible jazz. Excepting Ahmad Jamal (though Argo likely considered Jamal as accessible in his own right), it released blues and bop-driven and groove-oriented albums by Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Lou Donaldson, Budd Johnson and organists Sam Lazar and Baby Face Willette. The popular Ramsey Lewis was the main attraction.

When Argo changed its name to Cadet because of complaints by a similarly named company in the UK, it concentrated almost solely on soul jazz, especially after The In-Crowd by Lewis had become a million-selling record. Its roster included Ray Bryant and Brother Jack McDuff as well as promising unknowns as Bobby Bryant, Bill Leslie, Gene Shaw and Odell Brown. Another newcomer was Sonny Cox, part of The 3 Souls, which had released Dangerous Dan Express in 1964 and Soul Sounds in 1965. Cadet saw fit to release a solo effort in 1966: The Wailer.

Thereafter, the saxophonist disappeared from the scene altogether. Mr. Cox was a guidance counselor in Chicago public schools and coach of several Illinois state basketball teams. Apparently, Cox was somewhat of a legend that spotted talent and masterminded championship teams. Much akin to “Captain” Walter Dyett, the famed high school teacher that coached and strongly influenced future jazz heavyweights as Nat King Cole, Milt Hinton, Gene Ammons, Benny Green, Johnny Griffin, Eddie Harris, Clifford Jordan and John Gilmore in their formative years in Chicago.

Cadet didn’t take the easy way out. Variety on Cox’s swan song is key and the repertoire of standards, bossa, ballad, Ellingtonia, Miriam Makeba (yessir/lady) and soul/r&b is arranged expertly by Richard Evans, who perks up our ears using big brass and a low-end buzz of trombone and baritone saxophone and well-placed and timed Basie-ish riffs. Nothing wrong, to say the least, with the inclusion of bassist Cleveland Eaton and drummer Maurice White, who would join The Ramsey Lewis Trio in June. Just so in case you failed to notice, that’s White of Earth Wind & Fire fame.

They stoke up the fire of highlight Soulero, a composition by Richard Evans that develops from bolero to blues groove and is marked by Ken Prince’s sole Hammond solo, a punchy and gritty one at that. It has to be said that the dubious alto sound of Cox is a point lost, annoyingly out of tune. His solos are lively though rather uneven as well. I’m Just A Lucky So And So’s lines resemble the path of a sheep that broke out of the herd and shuffles panic-stricken through the dunes. Admittedly, he strongly fills the breaks on Hoggin’, a gritty copy paste from Hi-Heel Sneakers, courtesy of the leader.

So, to conclude, a one-time leader that made a hip and soulful record in spite of himself.

Only partly available on YouTube, here’s The Wailer and Berimbau (The Girls From Bahia). There’s a task here for (reissue) labels, let’s say the one and only Fresh Sound Records…

The 3 Souls Soul Sounds (Argo 1965)

Soul sounds, r&b sounds, jazz sounds, and whatnot on The 3 Souls album Soul Sounds.

The 3 Souls - Soul Sounds


Sonny Cox (alto saxophone), Ken Prince (organ), Robert Shy (drums), Louis Satterfield (electric bass A1, 2 & 4, B1), Gerald Sims (guitar A1, 2 & 4, B1)


on Februari 12, 1965 at Ter Mar Studio, Chicago


as Argo 4044 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
You’re No Good
I Don’t Want To Hear No More
Dear Old Stockholm
Walk On By
Big Jim
Side B:
A House Is Not A Home
Black Nile
Chitlins Con Carne

It is a most gratifying experience to delve into the Argo catalogue. It includes modern jazz artists like James Moody, Ahmad Jamal, Sonny Stitt, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Gene Ammons and Lou Donaldson. On the r&b market, the subsidiary of Chess Records from Chicago was a strong player with Etta James. Soul jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis secured a high profile and considerable revenues for the label, which changed its name to Cadet in 1965. The 3 Souls weren’t out of place in a roster that also, at one time, included Baby Face Willette and Bunky Greene. Chicago and the Midwest had a large, receptive audience for hip and groovy jazz.

As it happens, The 3 Souls had Chicago as a base of operations in 1965, enjoying a residency at the Hungry Eye. The 3 Souls consisted of organist Ken Price, drummer Robert Shy, both from Kentucky, and alto saxophonist Sonny Cox, a native of Cincinatti, Ohio. The group released three albums, The 3 Souls in 1963, Dangerous Dan Express in 1964, which spawned a minor hit with their version of Hi-Heel Sneakers, and Soul Sounds in 1965. On the 1966 Cadet album The Wailer by Sonny Cox, Ken Prince plays organ. On Soul Sounds, the trio is assisted on a number of tracks by bassist Louis Satterfield and guitarist Gerald Sims.

Cox is a peculiar player and Soul Sounds a quirky album. The alto saxophonist, born in 1938, backed Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, Jerry Butler and LaVern Baker in the 50s. He proved to be the sporty type as well. In the 70s Cox switched careers and became a successful baseball and basketball coach on Chicago high schools. Undoubtedly, coach Cox was aware that it’s essential for a team to have a number of capricious players, often the creative ones who pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Cox the alto player possesses creative unpredictability himself. That’s good. Yet, his playing isn’t wholly convincing, uneven at times, short on meaningful ideas, we’re not talking Cannonball Adderley here, or Frank Strozier, or Sonny Criss… But it’s edgy, animated. And his tone has something of the ‘singing’ sound of Hank Crawford, though more vulnerable, thin.

Soul Sounds is a hodgepodge of sorts that includes Randy Newman’s I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore, Stan Getz’ Dear Old Stockholm, Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By and, yep, Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile ánd Armageddon. During the r&b, pop and soul tunes, also including You’re No Good and Bacharach/David’s A House Is Not A Home, Cox focuses on the melody with slight variations of timing and bending of notes. The meaty Dear Old Stockholm is enlivened by a boppish whirlwind entrance and a spirited continuation of furious licks and belligerent twists and turns. Cox holds on, perhaps to dear life, to these procedures during Shorter’s Armageddon, coloring his emotional solo with lurid ‘out’ notes.

Albeit a bit stiff on Kenny Burrell’s Chitlins Con Carne, the organ/drums sound is gutsy, certainly on the Cox/Prince original composition Big Jim, a hefty, Brother Jack McDuff-style cooker. The outfit seems most comfortable cooking in this vein. However, the liner notes explain that the group liked to perform the music they like, be it jazz, soul or pop. Something of that attitude certainly rubbed off on the recording of Soul Sounds, coherence be damned, a frame of mind we should perhaps appreciate more than we’re initially inclined to.

Soul Sounds is not available on Spotify unfortunately, so hunt for a copy to hear the highlights, or listen on YouTube to Chitlins Con Carne and A House Is Not A Home.