Pittsburgh Music Story‎ > ‎Jazz‎ > ‎Modern Era‎ > ‎

Sonny Dallas

One of the Top Ten Jazz Bassists

Downbeat Magazine named Sonny Dallas as one of the  one of the top ten greatest jazz bassists.  He played on more than twenty critically acclaimed jazz recordings including “Motion” and “You and Lee” with the Lee Konitz Trio, “Phil Talks With Quill” with the Phil Woods Qunitet, as well as “Descent into the Maelstrom” and “Note to Note” with Lennie Tristano.

Eugene Chadbourne of Allmusicguide.com wrote "Dallas has a superb reputation...nobody articulates a quarter note like he does"...He is “a bassist associated with the top end of complexity in modern jazz, providing an accurate harmonic framework for the improvisations of players". 


Sonny Dallas was born Francis Dominic Joseph Dallas in Rankin, Pa.in 1931.  He began singing professionally at age 8 in local groups.  He studied bass with Herman Clements, principal bassist of the Pittsburgh Symphony, who also taught two other of the greatest jazz bassists Ray Brown and Paul Chambers. In the early 1950s Sonny performed as a bassist in bands led by Charlie Spivak, Ray Eberle and Claude Thornhill. 


In 1955 Sonny moved to New York launching his career performing and recording with jazz greats Chet Baker, Mary Lou Williams, Bill Evans, Sal Salvador, Tony Scott, and Buck Clayton, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Phil Woods, Gene Quill, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Elvin Jones, George Wallington, Jackie Paris and Lennie Tristano. He performed and recorded with Tristano for nine years from 1959 to 1969 and appeared with the Lennie Tristano Quintet on the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival All-Stars tour.

In the late '60s, after earning a Master of Arts degree in music education, he began a thirty-five year teaching and leading jazz ensembles at both Suffolk County Community College and Dowling College. He continued to perform leading the Sonny Dallas Big Band and appearing with Lee Konitz and others. He was honored with a lifetime achievement in jazz award in 2005 and is included in “The Encyclopedia of Jazz” by Leonard Feather. 


Sonny passed away of heartfailure at age 75 on Long Island on July 22, 2007.





All Music Guide

Sonny 2004 -Mark Weber Photo

The Recordings of Sonny Dallas

Sonny Playing with Lennie Tristano
Lee Konitz and Sonny Dallas