Fortune Sonny

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Fortune Sonny

Fortune, Sonny, American saxophonist and composer; b. Philadelphia, Pa., May 19, 1939. A highly underrated alto saxophonist, he is also a fine composer and many of his best recordings are versions of his own material. A hard-bop player who is equally at home on alto and soprano saxes and flute, he has a passionate, unmistakable style which often sounds as though he’s either laughing or crying through his instrument.

After moving to N.Y. in 1967, he began working with Elvin Jones, an association that continues sporadically today, and he also performed and recorded with Mongo Santamaria, McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis. He recorded albums as a leader for Strata-East, A&M Horizon, and Atlantic in the mid- to late 1970s, becoming a bit more commercial with each release. However, his live shows were far from commercial, with Fortune taking solos of 30 minutes or more with the right audience. Fortune recorded for the Konnex label and toured and recorded in the 1980s with Nat Adder ley (with whom his style fit perfectly). Working with Elvin Jones in the early 1990s, Fortune, by Jones’s request, has played tenor. He signed with Blue Note Records as a leader in 1993.


Long Before Our Mothers Cried (1974); Awakening (1975); In Waves of Dreams (1976); Serengeti Minstrel (1977); Infinity Is (1978); With Sound Reason (1979); It Ain’t What It Was (1991); Four in One (1994); A Better Understanding (1995); Monk’s Mood (1995); From Now On (1996); Sonny Fortune & Eddie Vinson (1997); In the Spirit of John Coltrane (2000).

—Bill Wahl