Sonny’s Blues

I see from Twitter that today is Sonny Clark’s birthday…

Sam Stephenson’s pieces in the Paris Review have the most information on Clark extant (one, two). “One day a book,” Sam says: Let’s hope so.

By happy accident I transcribed some Sonny Clark yesterday on the plane. Dexter Gordon’s Go is justly famous. Throughout the whole date, Clark, Butch Warren, and Billy Higgins set up a groove that just won’t quit.

On “Second Balcony Jump,” Clark plays some immortal rhythm changes.

Sonny C.

I took down only the first two choruses, a really marvelous mixture of blues and search. (The third chorus always seems like a mistake, like he has to keep going in order to preserve the exquisite take. I might be wrong, though.)

It was probably only happenstance that James Baldwin called his famous short story “Sonny’s Blues.” The biographical details of the “Sonny” in Baldwin’s tale don’t match Clark’s. Still, the short story and the real life story go together extremely well.

(Update: Ahem. There is no fourth bar of rest! Also there’s a wrong note in bar 59. Please blame my copyist.)