Sonny Criss started out in the late '40s as a California-based bebopper whose intense, fiery playing on alto sax did nothing to help sort things out in the largely specious discussion of West Coast cool/East Coast hot. He was a virtuoso who could up the ante on any of his contemporaries, from Art Pepper to Cannonball Adderley.Rockin' in Rhythm, from 1968, catches Criss at a creative peak, during the period following his return from three years in Europe. He is matched with a marvelous group: bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Alan Dawson, and an impressive Eddie Green on piano. This highly compatible group of like-minded masters is well-served by a recording that puts the listener in the middle of their tight-knit sound. While Green is not a name brand to the extent of a Cedar Walton or Roland Hanna, he is arguably their equal -- a soulful, fluid stylist with technique to spare. The program of pop covers, ballads, and standards lets Criss display all aspects of his sound. On the ballads, each note gets close, thoughtful attention. Up-tempo, Criss flies as fast as any of his peers, but with a precise, crisp execution that sets him apart from the merely fleet-fingered. The excellent bonus track, "All the Things You Are," from a 1967 session, has Paul Chambers on bass and Walter Davis at the piano. Anyone hearing Criss for the first time via this CD will feel compelled to dig deeper into his discography.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Todd