Hank Crawford Biography

Bennie Ross Crawford, 21 December 1934, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. One of the most prolific jazz/blues saxophonists, Crawford came to prominence as a member of the Ray Charles band in the late 50s. After studying at the University of Tennessee, he joined Charles in 1958, playing baritone saxophone and working closely with the leader on arrangements and new material. Eventually he was given the title musical director. Crawford later switched to alto saxophone and while still a member of the Charles band, he was signed in 1961 to a solo recording contract with Atlantic Records. His earliest recordings included fellow Charles sideman David ‘Fathead’ Newman on tenor saxophone and reproduced the funky feel of Charles’ own work. Crawford left Ray Charles and formed his own group in 1964, the year after Hollywood arranger Marty Paich had worked with him on an album of standards such as ‘Star Dust’ and ‘Stormy Weather’, but the bulk of Crawford’s Atlantic output comprised booting soul-blues material. From 1972, he recorded for Kudu, an easy-listening jazz label set up by Creed Taylor. His repertoire was now drawn from current hits (Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’) and Ray Charles standards (‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’) as well as original compositions. On several of the albums he was accompanied by members of the New York session mafia, notably Richard Tee (keyboards), Eric Gale and Hugh McCracken (guitars), Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Bernard Purdie (drums). After Kudu closed down, Crawford switched to Milestone where he continued to release albums on a regular basis, adhering to his well-worn formula, albeit a good one featuring the likes of McGriff, Billy Preston, George Benson and Mel Lewis. Following a stroke in 2000, Crawford's health went into slow decline until he passed away in 2009 at age 74.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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