Hank Crawford R.I.P.

Report in Memphis Online that Hank Crawford has sadly passed away :

Memphian Played with R&B Greats
Saxophonist's roots in Manassas High
The evocative, blues-influenced playing of Memphis jazz great Hank 
Crawford colored the saxophonist's own albums and the work of many 
others, most notably Ray Charles.

Born and raised in Memphis, Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford Jr. was a 
childhood prodigy who first flashed his musical gifts in church.

As a student at Manassas High School, he was a member of the school's 
band, The Rhythm Bombers. Manassas proved a hothouse atmosphere: Mr. 
Crawford's classmates included future jazz greats George Coleman, 
Harold Mabern and Charles Lloyd.

Mr. Crawford died Thursday at his home. He was 74.

Delores Crawford said her brother had been in declining health for the 
past year, dealing with the long-term effects of a stroke he suffered 
in 2000.

Although Mr. Crawford made a return to the stage in 2003, he had not 
performed publicly in several years.

In the late '40s and early '50s, Mr. Crawford was part of the thriving 
Mid-South dance band scene, serving as a member of outfits led by Ben 
Branch, Tuff Green, Al Jackson Sr. and Ike Turner, and backing up then-
fledgling artists like B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland.

After high school, Mr. Crawford moved to Nashville, where he studied 
music at Tennessee State University and cut R&B records on the side. 
It was in Nashville that Mr. Crawford first crossed paths with Ray 
Charles. He joined Charles' band in 1959 and eventually became its 
musical director before leaving to form his own sextet in 1963.

Mr. Crawford's recording career was distinguished and adventurous. He 
cut a series of critically acclaimed albums for Atlantic throughout 
the '60s, and later explored fusion and funk on the Kudu label in the 
'70s, before taking a back-to-roots jazz direction in the '80s.

Over the years, Mr. Crawford also remained an in-demand sideman, 
working with a range of artists including Etta James, Lou Rawls, Jimmy 
McGriff and Dr. John.

Although he spent much of his adult life based in New York City and 
touring Europe, Mr. Crawford returned to Memphis in 2000 after his 
stroke to recuperate with his family. He spent his remaining years 
splitting time between the Big Apple and his hometown.

Mr. Crawford's death comes just over a week after the passing of his 
longtime collaborator David "Fathead" Newman. The two horn players 
were, for many years, the backbone of Charles' band.

Mr. Crawford also leaves a son, Michael Crawford; a daughter, Sherri 
Crawford; a granddaughter, Tiffany Crawford, and six siblings. Funeral 
arrangements are pending.

By Bob Mehr
Memphis, Online

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