Sonny Criss: Age 50 | Cause Of Death: SUICIDE

(Born in Memphis, Tenn., on Oct. 23, 1927, Died on Nov. 19, 1977, LA, CA) 

A talented bop altoist, Sonny Criss was influenced by Charlie Parker but had his own heavier sound. He spent most of his life in the Los Angeles area starting in 1942. In 1946 he worked in Howard McGhee’s band with Charlie Parker and Teddy Edwards and can be heard on several jam sessions on Savoy in 1947. Criss spent periods playing with Johnny Otis, Gerald Wilson, and Billy Eckstine (1950-51) and was with Stan Kenton in 1955. He also worked with Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars and Buddy Rich’s quartet (1958) in addition to leading his own groups, recording three albums for Imperial in 1956. Criss lived in Europe during 1962-65, recorded some excellent sets for Prestige during 1966-69 and in the 1970s headed sessions for Fresh Sound, Xanadu, Muse and a couple of commercial efforts for Impulse. After European tours in 1973 and 1974, Sonny Criss’ career seemed on an upswing. But due to the pain of cancer, he chose to commit suicide in 1977. — Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
Criss died on Nov. 19…of a self-inflicted gunshot as he was preparing for his initial tour of Japan. ~ Will Smith