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from Auditions - Jazziz, June, 2004

by Bill Meredith

Good Fortune, after all these years

When saxophonist Conelius "Sonny" Fortune says "I've been fortunate," he's not making a play on words but speaking of a career that includes Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, George Benson, Mongo Santamaria, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones. The native Philadelphian also has a dozen recrdings out under his name (on Blue Note, Atlantic, and A&M, among others), but his latest CD is a special solo effort.

Continuum was released late last year on Fortune's own Sound Reason imprint, and is available only through his new website (www.sonnyfortune.com) -- quite a departure for an artist with such a proven major label history.

"I did it by choice," Fortune says from his home in New York. "After all these years, I think there has never been a more opportune time then now to go the route that I'm going. The way the jazz and record industries are now, unless you're with one of the few true major labels, there's not much of a difference. The record came out last November, and I've made more money off of it since then than I would've with a label."

On Continuum, Fortune plays alto, tenor, and soprano saxes, as well as alto flute. The set includes original odes to Santamaria ("MongoBlue"), John Coltrane ("Five Four Trane"), and Wayne Shorter ("Wayne-Ish").

"The response has been very good, but the record hasn't gotten a lot of exposure yet," Fortune says. "But I'm busy trying to hook up some things. I'm trying to get into some stores, and to get with a distributor. Right now it's just through the website and on gigs."

The saxophonist, who turned 65 last month, considers himself lucky to have been among the jazz elite for nearly his entire career.

"The time with Miles, well, that was a very rewarding experience. I thought he had really put a direction into the music, and I found him to be a really funny cat, simply because he never actually tried to be humorous."

"Ive been truly blessed,", says Fortune, who had just returned from tours of Mexico and the Middle East at press time. "Everyone I've worked with has been very unique, both in their character and their music. When I first heard Elvin, none of us had any idea where the guy had come from. Buddy Rich, that man was nothin' but those drums. He never stopped. We'd work seven nights, but I never saw him threaten or curse anybody out like I've heard he did. Mongo. McCoy, those guys were very unique, too. And I've only played with Coltrane once, but to have known him and talked to him was special."

-- Bill Meredith

Reproduced with permission.

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