Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford, Jr. (December 21, 1934 – January 29, 2009) was an American R&B, hard bop, jazz-funk, soul jazz alto saxophonist, arranger and songwriter. Crawford was musical director for Ray Charles before embarking on a solo career releasing many well-regarded albums on Atlantic, CTI and Milestone.
|Birth name||Bennie Ross Crawford, Jr|
|Born||December 21, 1934|
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 29, 2009 (aged 74)|
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Genres||R&B, Hard bop, Jazz-funk, Soul jazz|
|Instruments||Alto/Baritone Saxophone, Piano|
|Associated acts||Jimmy McGriff, Richie Cole|
Crawford was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He began formal piano studies at the age of nine and was soon playing for his church choir. His father had brought an alto saxophone home from the service and when Hank entered Manassas High School, he took it up in order to join the band. He credits Charlie Parker, Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges as early influences.
In 1958, Crawford went to college at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at TSU, he majored in music studying theory and composition, as well as playing alto and baritone saxophone in the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians. He also led his own rock 'n' roll quartet, "Little Hank and the Rhythm Kings". His bandmates all thought he looked and sounded just like Hank O'Day, a legendary local saxophonist, which earned him the nickname "Hank". This is when Crawford met Ray Charles, who hired Crawford originally as a baritone saxophonist. Crawford switched to alto in 1959 and remained with Charles' band—becoming its musical director until 1963.
When Crawford left Ray Charles in 1963 to form his own septet, he had already established himself with several albums for Atlantic Records. From 1960 until 1970, he recorded twelve LPs for the label, many while balancing his earlier duties as Ray's director. He released such pre-crossover hits as "Misty", "The Peeper", "Whispering Grass", and "Shake-A-Plenty".
He also has done musical arrangement for Etta James, Lou Rawls, and others. Much of his career has been in R&B, but in the 1970s he had several successful jazz albums, with I Hear a Symphony reaching 11 on Billboard's Jazz albums list and 159 for Pop albums.
David Sanborn cites Crawford as being one of his primary influences. Crawford is recognized by saxophonists as having a particularly unique and pleasing sound. In 1981, he featured, with fellow horn players Ronnie Cuber and David Newman, on B.B. King's There Must Be a Better World Somewhere.
In 1983 he moved to Milestone Records as a premier arranger, soloist, and composer, writing for small bands including guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Jimmy McGriff, and Dr. John. In 1986, Crawford began working with blues-jazz organ master Jimmy McGriff. They recorded five co-leader dates for Milestone Records: Soul Survivors, Steppin' Up, On the Blue Side, Road Tested, and Crunch Time, as well as two dates for Telarc Records: Right Turn on Blue and Blues Groove. The two toured together extensively.
The new century found Crawford shifting gears and going for a more mainstream jazz set in his 2000 release The World of Hank Crawford. Though the songs are compositions from jazz masters such as Duke Ellington and Tadd Dameron, he delivers in that sanctified church sound that is his trademark. Followed by The Best of Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff (2001).
|1961||More Soul||Atlantic Records|
|1962||The Soul Clinic||Atlantic|
|1962||From the Heart||Atlantic|
|1963||Soul of the Ballad||Atlantic|
|1965||Dig These Blues||Atlantic|
|1969||Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul||Atlantic|
|1970||The Best of Hank Crawford (compilation)||Atlantic|
|1971||It's a Funky Thing to Do||Cotillion/Atlantic|
|1972||Help Me Make it Through the Night||Kudu/CTI Records|
|1972||We Got a Good Thing Going||Kudu|
|1974||Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing||Kudu|
|1975||I Hear a Symphony||Kudu|
|1976||Hank Crawford's Back||Kudu|
|1980||Centerpiece with Calvin Newborn||Buddah Records|
|1982||Midnight Ramble||Milestone Records|
|1984||Down on the Deuce||Milestone|
|1986||Soul Survivors with Jimmy McGriff||Milestone|
|1987||Steppin' Up with Jimmy McGriff||Milestone|
|1989||On the Blue Side with Jimmy McGriff||Milestone|
|1990||Bossa International with Richie Cole||Milestone|
|1994||Right Turn on Blue with Jimmy McGriff||Telarc Records|
|1995||Blues Groove with Jimmy McGriff||Telarc|
|1997||Road Tested with Jimmy McGriff||Milestone|
|1999||Crunch Time with Jimmy McGriff||Milestone|
|2000||The World of Hank Crawford||Milestone|
|2001||The Best of Hank Crawford & Jimmy McGriff (compilation)||Milestone|
With Ray Charles
- Ray Charles at Newport (Atlantic, 1958)
- What'd I Say (Atlantic, 1959)
- Ray Charles in Person (Atlantic, 1959)
- Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (ABC-Paramount, 1962)
With Eric Clapton
- Journeyman (Warner Bros., 1989)
With Grant Green
- Easy (Versatile, 1978)
With Johnny Hammond
- Breakout (Kudu/CTI Records, 1971)
With Etta James
- The Right Time (Elektra, 1992)
With B.B. King
- Fathead Comes On (Atlantic, 1962)
- Still Hard Times (Muse, 1982)
- Fire! Live at the Village Vanguard (Atlantic, 1989)
With Shirley Scott
- Shirley Scott & the Soul Saxes (Atlantic, 1969)
With Janis Siegel
- The Tender Trap (Monarch, 1999)
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- Obituary at L.A. Times
- Lydon, Michael. Ray Charles: Man and Music, Routledge, p. 144 (2004) - ISBN 0-415-97043-1
- Down Beat Profile Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- All Music: Hank Crawford
- Fairweather, Digby. The Rough Guide to Jazz, Rough Guides, p. 694 (2004) - ISBN 1-84353-256-5
- Balfany, Greg (January–February 1989). "David Sanborn". Saxophone Journal. 13 (4). pp. 28–31.
- on YouTube
- Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, p. 133 (2003) - ISBN 0-87930-736-6
- Weber, Bruce. "Hank Crawford, Prolific Saxophonist, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved November 16, 2018.