Hank Crawford: After Dark

Willie Dixon, the bass-playing bluesman whose “My Babe” opens this disc, was fond of saying that “blues is a feeling.” That feeling is very much present on this blues-saturated disc which features altoist Crawford with a terrific combo: guitarist Melvin Sparks; Danny Mixon, piano, organ and Bernard Purdie on drums with Stanley Banks and Wilbur Bascomb splitting the bass chores. Crawford, whose blues credentials were established 40 years ago during his five-year tenure with Ray Charles, is an emotionally honest player whose lyricism refreshes you with each note. Houston native Melvin Sparks is certainly no stranger to the blues, either, as his “Git It,” a good old funky blues, shows. Purdie, likewise, is no mere novice to the blues (or soul) and says of Crawford that “he takes a song and melts it.” For verification check out Crawford’s very heartfelt playing on “That’s All.”

Crawford describes his approach to his horn as “vocal,” adding “Maybe you don’t hear any words when I play, but I try to keep the melody so far in front that you can almost sing along.” Those vocalizing talents are essential to the success of such tunes as “T’Ain’t Nobdy’s Bizness If I Do,” “St. Louis Blues” and one of his own 12-bar compositions, “Mother Nature,” during which the refrain “when I’ve been drinkin'” comes to mind. Sparks is equally outstanding on this track! As annotator Dick Shurman points out, Crawford is through and through a bluseman, albeit one without portfolio. Maybe there’s too much “jazz” in his playing. Whatever the case, this CD-like most of his work definitely deserves a bigger audience.