This is one of a group of Prestige dates by Sonny Criss from the late '60s that featured the altoist elegantly ripping through pop tunes, standing them on their heads and making them into credible vehicles for his dazzling virtuosity. For this 1968 recording, Criss gets hold of Sonny Bono's "The Beat Goes On" and makes it sophisticated, soulful, and swinging. The saxophonist is ably aided in this unlikely transformation by bassist Bob Cranshaw, pianist Cedar Walton, and drummer Alan Dawson, whose swirling brush work is key to the success of the title track. The group is less successful in pulling off a similar identity change on "Somewhere My Love." The melody gets an overly snappy Las Vegas lounge treatment, but then the piece comes together for some crisp, exciting solo work. Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe" also gets the Criss treatment. Partial success again, as the rhythm section remains a bit too static. Moving outside the pop repertoire, Criss scores full marks with a fiery, focused, up-tempo version of "Yesterdays"; the mid-tempo standard "Georgia Rose"; and his own urbane blues, "Calidad." This last piece is one of the performances on the CD where Criss, with his rapid, serpentine flow of ideas, begins to sound almost like Eric Dolphy. But where Dolphy regularly pushed towards the avant-garde, Criss' astonishing abilities are based within a more traditional, accessible syntax.
Sonny Criss Quartet
Sonny Criss (as) Cedar Walton (p) Bob Cranshaw (b) Alan Dawson (d)
01 The Beat Goes On
02 Georgia Rose
03 Somewhere My Love (Lara's Theme)
06 Ode to Billie Joe