A Memorial Tribute to Sonny Fortune by WRTI's Bob Perkins

Nov 9, 2018

Jazz musician Cornelius (Sonny) Fortune died on October 25th, at age 79. Sonny's biography reveals he was a man in perpetual motion, allowing no grass to grow under his feet when it came to perfecting his craft. He used his time and talents wisely and well.

He was a highly skilled musician--playing all of the saxophones, as well as the flute and clarinet.He shared stages and recording studios with many of the greats and near-greats of modern music--his range of musical associations included, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Buddy Rich, Roy Ayers, Pharoah Sanders and George Benson, to name a few.

Sonny's musical versatility allowed him to perform in varied genres of creative music, making him at ease while performing in the straight-ahead, free-jazz and jazz-fusion movements. He was a much sought-after sideman, and a bandleader in his own right.

Although he was a talented man, he was also humble...and at times, somewhat self-effacing. At one point in time was heard to say, " I feel my best ever, musically. My instruments are at their best. So I continue to play music. The beauty of this music--America's Spontaneous Improvisational Music--is that it allows me to keep trying until I get it right."

To his many fans and musical associates--he'd had it right for some time, do in great part to his strong work ethic, and to the good fortune of having been born and raised in Philadelphia, long-known as one of the cradles for budding jazz talent. In addition, Sonny attended Philadelphia's renowned Granoff School of Music, which years before, had helped shape the futures of Dizzy Gillespie, Percy Heath and John Coltrane.

Quite a thing to have one's name included in such fast company. But as mentioned in this piece, Cornelius (Sonny) Fortune, was a multi-instrumentalist, and made music with a great range of musicians during his time...and was a welcome addition to any ensemble. As for being in "fast company", perhaps it takes one to know one.