The most successful high school basketball coach in the history of Chicago is Landon “Sonny” Cox. But before he started blowing his coach’s whistle to demand attention, it was the soulful sound of his alto saxophone that brought him accolades.
Heading toward the West Coast with his friend and fellow saxophonist Joe Henderson in 1962, Cox stopped in Chicago. He never left town, becoming a fixture in the Windy City jazz scene during the ‘60s, eventually hooking up with organist Ken Prince and drummer Robert Shy to form The Three Souls.
In the winter of 1964, the trio entered Ter Mar Recording Studio and recorded the instant soul-jazz classic, “Dangerous Dan Express,” named for the controversial highway that cut a scar across Chicago’s South Side. From the first blasts of Sonny’s alto on the title track and album opener, you know you are in for a joy-filled ride, the wind in your face. A couple of minutes in, Ken Prince’s organ kicks the tune into a higher gear before Sonny takes everybody home.
Side B opens with a breakneck version of “Milestones,” featuring masterful bass work from Ken Prince on the organ as well as some dizzying solo runs from the leader’s alto. The album even produced a hit with a down-home version of Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers” that simmers like a pot of beans on the burner. The single sold enough copies to allow Cox to buy his first home.
Throughout the album, Sonny’s alto work remains fiery and emotive, emanating a raw power. Besides the outstanding work of the trio, the album features colorful guitar work from George Eskridge and Gerald Sims. This is the kind of record to play on a Sunday morning while you sip hot coffee, read a pulpy novel and bask in the beauty of the day.