Clark, Sonny [Conrad Yeatis]
- Marcello Piras
(b Herminie, nr Elizabeth, PA, July 21, 1931; d New York, NY, Jan 13, 1963). American pianist and composer. The son of a coal miner, he took piano lessons as a child. He lived in Pittsburgh from 1943 and had turned to jazz by 1945, after hearing Count Basie and Duke Ellington on the radio and records by Art Tatum and Fats Waller. He also played vibraphone and string bass in high school. A follower of Bud Powell’s bebop style, by 1951 he had moved to Los Angeles, where he performed with Wardell Gray, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, and Shelly Manne, among other West Coast players. He made his first recordings with Teddy Charles and Art Pepper (1953) and worked with Oscar Pettiford’s trio and Buddy DeFranco (1954–6), with whom he quit the heroin habit for a while. In February 1957 he began accompanying the singer Dinah Washington and in April traveled to New York with her. There he played with major hard-bop figures, including Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin, and Jackie McLean, and led a trio. In his last two years he was less active but made some of his best recordings; he died of a heart attack after an overdose. Bill Evans created his three-piano masterpiece ...