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Sonny Fortune: In the Spirit of John Coltrane

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illustration Sonny Fortune

A native of Philadelphia, where John Coltrane grew immeasurably as a musician, Sonny Fortune is one of those relentless, tireless saxophone improvisers who fell under the spell of Trane early and has manifested that spirit throughout his career. Inspired by his participation in a superb District Curators concert tribute to Coltrane in ’98 at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre that had the audience hollering, Fortune goes deep in the shed for this tribute to the master. The specter of Coltrane has consistently enveloped Fortune’s horns, even when serving his late ’60s Latin jazz apprenticeship with Mongo Santamaria.

Coltrane’s influence came into sharper focus during Fortune’s stints with McCoy Tyner (recall the blisters he put on the Sahara date) and alongside Elvin Jones’ roiling, cursing, thrashing drum machine, where Fortune raised the hairs on the backs of more than a few necks during Jones’ residency at Umbria Jazz in summer ’98. In the company of those two powerhouses he lived the dream of many a saxman, warming his chops in the ferocious company that upped the ante for so many of Coltrane’s historic forays. So it’s not as a novice, familiar with Coltrane’s oeuvre solely through the magic of stereophonic sound, the tributary writings of spellbound scribes or the hushed recollections of other acolytes, that Fortune travels down this well-journeyed path of homage to Trane.

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