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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hank Crawford RIP

From Bob Corritore

  • RIP Hank Crawford 12/21/1934-1/29/2009: Yet another alumnus of the Ray Charles horn section has left us. Bennie "Hank" Crawford died Thursday from the debilitating effects of a stroke suffered in 2000. He was 74. Hank Crawford was one of the legendary greats of saxophone. Though most embraced in jazz circles, Crawford never strayed too far from the blues. His ripping, bluesy tone and expressive phrasing were trademarks of his wonderful style. The following obit is by Bob Mehr of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

The evocative, blues-influenced playing of Memphis jazz great Hank Crawford colored the saxophonist's own albums and the work of many others, most notably Ray Charles.

Born and raised in Memphis, Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford, Jr. was a childhood prodigy who first flashed his musical gifts in church. As student at Manassas High School, he was a member of the school's band, The Rhythm Bombers. Manassas proved a hothouse atmosphere: Mr. Crawford's classmates included future jazz greats George Coleman, Harold Mabern, and Charles Lloyd. Mr. Crawford died Thursday, January 19, 2009, at his home. He was 74. Delores Crawford said her brother had been in declining health for the past year, dealing with the long-term effects of a stroke he suffered in 2000.

Although Mr. Crawford made a return to the stage in 2003, he had not performed publicly in several years. In the late '40s and early '50s, Mr. Crawford was part of the thriving Mid-South dance band scene, serving as a member of outfits led by Ben Branch, Tuff Green, Al Jackson, Sr., and Ike Turner, and backing up then-fledgling artists like B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland. After high school, Mr. Crawford moved to Nashville, where he studied music at Tennessee State University, and cut R&B records on the side. It was in Nashville that Mr. Crawford first crossed paths with Ray Charles. He joined Charles's band in 1959, and eventually became its musical director before leaving to form his own sextet in 1963.

Mr. Crawford's recording career was distinguished and adventurous. He cut a series of critically acclaimed albums for Atlantic throughout the '60s, and later explored fusion and funk on the Kudu label in the '70s, before taking a back-to-roots jazz direction in the '80s.

Over the years, Mr. Crawford also remained an in-demand sideman, working with a range of artists including Etta James, Lou Rawls, Jimmy McGriff, and Dr. John.

Although he spent much of his adult life based in New York City and touring Europe, Mr. Crawford returned to Memphis in 2000 after his stroke to recuperate with his family. He spent his remaining years splitting time between the Big Apple and his hometown.

Mr. Crawford's death comes just over a week after the passing of his longtime collaborator David "Fathead" Newman. The two horn players were for many years the backbone of Charles's band. Mr. Crawford also leaves a son, Michael Crawford; a daughter, Sherri Crawford; a granddaughter, Tiffany Crawford, and six siblings. Funeral arrangements are pending.

-Bob Mehr

Additionally, we should mention the great collaborative efforts of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff, who toured frequently during the later part of Hank's career, and recorded many great albums together, many of which were lovingly produced by Bob Porter. To see some great performances by Hank on the David Sanborn show, click here and here.

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