Fortune, Williams improvise, but keep it tight in serving up jazz |
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Saxophonist Sonny Fortune

Whipping up a good serving of jazz is a lot like cooking breakfast, saxophonist Sonny Fortune says.

“Do scrambled eggs make a good breakfast?” he asks. “Depends on the chef.”

Fortune believes he and bassist Buster Williams will cook up a good meal Nov. 7 at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. Both stars will be leading their own bands in two shows.

For a player who, at one time, did long forays into improvisation, creating quartet jazz in a relatively quick setting will produce an easy-to-take set of jazz, he says.

“We do what the music is having us do,” says Fortune, 75. “In this kind of music, you try to cheer people up. You can do that. You can wake ’em up or you can put ’em to sleep.”

Playing in a tightly timed concert will make it easy to “get it all in,” he says.

The native of Philadelphia has played and recorded with jazz stars like Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich and George Benson. He even spent time in Miles Davis’ electronic bands.

But some of his most memorable dates probably were with drummer Rasheed Ali (1933-2009), with whom he did duo concerts that were totally improvised.

While the content was put together on the spot, he says, they had some discipline as Fortune “was keeping form and Rasheed was keeping time.”

“I had no idea what people were hearing,” he says, “but they appeared to be digging it.”

He pauses and laughs.

“We were both half-crazy anyway,” he says.

He says he and Ali worked together for about 10 years, getting together for fun, before Ali decided they could take the show on the road.

This concert will be a little more defined by the material Fortune has developed over the years. It will feature his current quartet of pianist Michael Cochran, drummer Steve Johns and bassist David Williams.

With years of performing in his history and no need to burn up the music stage now, Fortune is trying to keep his schedule sane. He did a couple of weeks in Europe over the summer, but says he tends to stay in-country. He also likes to drive to gigs rather than fly and will be motoring his way to Pittsburgh for this show.

“Travel is such an ordeal,” he says.

While he plays most of the saxes, he tends to travel only with his alto, which can be stuck in overhead carriers, something he says is impossible with tenor or baritone saxes. “Carry as little as possible, that’s the secret,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7852.

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