The Artistry of… Sonny Clark

Sonny Clark was a jazz piano giant. From all reports he stood at only a few inches over five feet, but when he created and played, he towered above so many of the rest and best.

He was from a small former coal mining town in Pennsylvania called Herminie and is proudly listed by that community as a favourite son. Stature and length of time seems to be thematic in his life. His was a short life, ended at 31 by a heroin overdose. Short time spent, short stature, and from a small town. It seems that his destiny was to make a big splash in the world but just for a short, stellar and magnificent time.

His earliest professional gig was in a hotel in his hometown when he was still an elementary school student. He became a Blue Note superstar in New York, adding a style all his own to the bebop wave, taking elements from the influence of players like Rollins, Monk and Powell. He was a solid side player, backing up the great Dinah Washington for a while in his career and becoming a go-to piano player for other great Blue Note artists. Sadly, addiction took him from us way too soon but the artistic legacy he left is a prominent feature in the jazz land of the giants.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.