Monday, September 06, 2010

Sonny Fortune - Last Night at Sweet Rhythm (Sound Reason, 2009)

Influenced by John Coltrane and many others, saxophonist and flautist Sonny Fortune was a featured soloist in the groups of McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis and Elvin Jones before starting a lengthy career as a leader and recording artist. This live recording on his own label features him on alto and soprano saxophones and flute playing a fiery yet accessible version of post bop jazz accompanied by Michel Cochrane on piano, David Williams on bass and Steve Johns on drums. "It Ain't What It Was" opens the album in a fast uptempo swing backed by bright piano and solid bass and drums. After a brisk piano led interlude, Fortune returns to trade phrases with Johns. After introducing the band he leads them into "The Blues Are Green" which has spacious mid tempo backing framing patient, breezy alto. Fortune builds a powerful Coltrane-esque solo, building deep swirling lines against rolling drums, developing emotional peals of sound. Switching to flute on "Never Is Such a Long Time" gives the music a light and milder feel, and Fortune uses this to dance and weave textures, swirling and swaying in a delicate fashion. Mid-tempo piano, bass and drums set the stage for a soprano saxophone feature on "In Waves of Dreams" with the pinched sound of the instrument probing and pushing against a lush backdrop. "The Joneses" is a lengthy performance that serves a the centerpiece of the album. Two sections of exotic sounding Eastern tinged flute frame the performance at the beginning and the end with a burning alto saxophone solo featured in the middle. This is Fortune at his most intense, playing fast and very deep, tapping a wellspring of inspiration to create a memorable performance. They keep the pace fast for "Laying It Down," the final selection on the album. The music is fast and bebop inspired with Fortune playing a scalding alto solo, really bringing passion to the music over strong piano and drum accompaniment. The band builds to a strong and confident conclusion to the generous approval of the audience. This was a well played snapshot of a assured band playing strong improvisational music live and in the moment. They sometimes wear their influences on their sleeves, but this is not a bad thing as they draw on the power of the music that has come before them to make their own statements in the continuing evolution of jazz. Last Night At Sweet Rhythm - amazon.com

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