Though Sonny Clark's CD Oakland, 1955 was his first trio recording, the Trio album on Blue Note was issued well beforehand. Produced during that great year in music -- 1957 -- Clark is teamed with the outstanding rhythm section of drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Paul Chambers, comprising as solid a triad as there ever was. Like his peers Wynton Kelly, Duke Jordan and Kenny Drew, Sonny Clark was a premier pianist whose good taste, high level of intelligence, and brightly colored phrasings branded him a truly unique musician. This reissue of American popular songs and bop standards is programmed in the exact order the tracks were recorded, including three alternate takes not included on the original LP. Though just a sconce over 49 minutes, every minute is a precious example of the complete jazz pianist Clark was. The longest jam is Dizzy Gillespie's "Be-Bop," where Clark cuts loose on a multitude of furious extrapolated chord substitutions or drawn out single-note pronouncements that last until dawn, and never lose your interest. The difficulty in playing a languid melody seems simple for Clark on "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," as he takes the usually upbeat tune into a dainty, relaxed mode, accented by the deft brushwork of Jones. Clever Thelonious Monk-like start-stop motions identify both takes of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," the bass mastery of Chambers and a trading of eights at the end of "Tadd's Delight" heighten the cache of this already memorable tune. "Two Bass Hit" is one of the all-time classic bop vehicles, fun for Jones as his strokes shoot everywhere in between Clark's statements on the master take, but are much less filling on the alternate. "I'll Remember April" is a solo exercise in restraint, a carefully constructed ballad occasionally burnished with arpeggiated flourishes. Mainstream jazz lovers will find much to enjoy about this edition of Clark discography, and a very good primer for recordings of his original music to come later in his career. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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