Hank Crawford | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hank Crawford 

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HANK CRAWFORD

Alto saxophonist Hank Crawford arrives just in time: who better to turn a near-north January night into a south-side August swelter? The Memphis-born veteran has soul to spare, inherited in part from his earliest employers: B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Ike and Tina Turner, and Ray Charles, in whose legendary jazz 'n' blues band Crawford starred in the late 50s and early 60s. Crawford's sweet-vinegar sound has mellowed with age, growing darker and a little deeper as he approaches his 64th birthday; it pinches a bit more on the upper registers, and in his laconic wail, experience has taken its place alongside sensuality. When Crawford hooks up with another blues-minded veteran--like Jimmy McGriff, the organist he's frequently teamed with in recent years--his measured and symmetrical phrases highlight his aesthetic descent from jump-band altoists like Louis Jordan and Earl Bostic, whose music presaged and then turned into R & B. But put him in front of a jazz rhythm section, such as the lithe, energetic trio of pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Larry Gray, and drummer Robert Shy that will back him this weekend, and the legacy of Charlie Parker--no mean blues player himself--starts to edge forward. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Mohn Abbott.

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