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date: 13 November 2019

Fortune, Sonny [Cornelius]free

  • David Wild
  • , revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Philadelphia, May 19, 1939; d Oct 25, 2018). American alto saxophonist. He studied music from the age of 18 and worked in Philadelphia with rhythm-and-blues groups. Having played jazz with the singer Carolyn Harris until 1967 he moved to New York, where he joined Elvin Jones for four months as Frank Foster’s replacement. He returned to Philadelphia and was then again in New York with Mongo Santamaria (1968 – early 1970). After spending ten months of 1970 playing in Los Angeles, he went once more to New York and in 1971 joined McCoy Tyner. He was active as a leader for a brief period (1973), recorded with Abdullah Ibrahim’s big band (1973), and was a member of groups led by Buddy Rich and Miles Davis (August 1974 – May 1975); he recorded as a sideman with Michael Carvin (1975) and Charles Mingus (1977). Later he worked again as a leader, favouring a more commercially oriented pop style in his recordings than in his performances. Fortune toured and recorded with Nat Adderley’s hard-bop group in 1982 and with Jones in 1985, and as a leader returned to a jazz setting in a recording for a Japanese label in 1988. From that same year to 1990 he explored a fusion with ethnic styles as a sideman with Rabih Abou-Khalil, with whom he toured Europe in summer 1989. He also recorded again with Carvin (1989) and with Adderley (1990). In the 1990s he led his own bands and worked as a sideman with Jones, with whom he may be seen in the videos Newport Jazz ’90 (1990) and Elvin Jones Jazz Machine (n.d. [filmed 1991]). In addition to the alto saxophone Fortune played soprano saxophone and flute.

Selected recordings

As leader

with Stan Hunter: Trip on the Strip (1965, Prst. 7458)

Long Before our Mothers Cried (1974, SE 7423)

Awakening (1975, A&M Hor. 704)

Serengeti Minstrel (1977, Atl. 18225)

It Ain’t What it Was (1991, Konnex 5033)

Monk’s Mood (1993, Konnex 5048)

Four in One (1994, BN B21Z-28243)

A Better Understanding (1995, BN B21Z-32799)

From Now On (1996, BN 38098-2)

As sideman

M. Santamaria: Stoned Soul (1968, Col. CS9780)

M. Tyner: Sahara (1973, Mlst. 9049)

M. Davis: Get up with it (1974, Col. PG33236)

Agharta (1975, Col. PG33967)

E. Jones: In Europe (1991, Enja 7009-2)

It Don’t Mean a Thing (1993, Enja 8066-2)

Bibliography

  • A. J. Smith: “Sonny Fortune: Windfall on the Wind,” DB, 43/3 (1976), 16 [incl. discography]
  • W. A. Brower: “Sonny Fortune Splits the Difference,” DB, 46/3 (1979), 20
  • J. Chambers: Milestones, ii: The Music and Times of Miles Davis since 1960 (Toronto, Buffalo, and London, 1985)
  • L. Gourse: “Sonny Fortune,” Windplayer, 6/3 (1989), 14
  • R. Hicks: “Riffs: Fortune Smiles on Monk,” DB, 61/12 (1994), 14
  • G. Robinson: “Sonny Fortune’s Way Out,” JT, 24/10 (1994), 31
  • S. Dollar: “Sonny Fortune Takes Foreground as Individual Force,” Atlantic Constitution (1 Sept 1995)
Down Beat
Jazz Times (Washington, 1980-)