Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sonny Fortune - 1977 - Serengeti Minstrel

Sonny Fortune
Serengeti Minstrel

01. Bacchanal
02. The Afro-Americans
03. There´s Nothing Smart About Being Stupid
04. Not All Dreams Are Real
05. Never Again Is Such A Long Time
06. Serengeti Minstrel

Sonny Fortune: flute, alto flute, alto saxophone, handclaps, soprano saxophone, piccolo, composer
Woody Shaw: cornet, trumpet
Kenny Barron: fender rhodes, composer
Jack Wilkins: guitar
Gary King: electric bass
Sammy Figueroa: bongos, congas, whistle
Jack DeJohnette: drums, handclaps
Rafael Cruz: cuica, percussion
Horacee Arnold: drums, celeste, bass marimba, gong, handclaps, composer

Recorded April 6, 1977 (1, 4, 6), April 7, 1977 (2, 3, 6), April 8, 1977 (5) at Generation Sound Studios, New York City.

After moving to New York City in 1967 Fortune recorded and appeared live with drummer Elvin Jones's group. In 1968 he was a member of Mongo Santamaría's band. He subsequently performed with singer Leon Thomas, and with pianist McCoy Tyner (1971–73).

In 1974 Fortune replaced Dave Liebman in Miles Davis's ensemble, remaining until spring 1975, when he was succeeded by Sam Morrison. Fortune can be heard on the albums Big Fun, Get Up With It, Agharta and Pangaea, the last two recorded live in Japan.

Fortune joined Nat Adderley after his brief tenure with Davis, and then went on to form his own group in June 1975, recording two albums for the Horizon (A&M) label. During the 1990s, he recorded several acclaimed albums for the Blue Note label. He has also performed with Roy Brooks, Buddy Rich, George Benson, Rabih Abou Khalil, Roy Ayers, Oliver Nelson, Gary Bartz, Rashied Ali and Pharoah Sanders, as well as appearing on the live album The Atlantic Family Live at Montreux (1977)

This is one of my favorite Sonny Fortune recordings. A multi-talented artist with a distinctive sound on both Alto and Soprano Saxophones while adding vibrant colorations on Flute, Sonny Fortune has been overlooked for much too long. Surrounding himself with excellent musicians that include Jack DeJohnette (Drums), Woody Shaw (Cornet & Fluglehorn) and Kenny Barron (Fender Rhodes), this 1977 recording cooks from beginning to end. If you like music played with passion and finesse, you need to add "Serengeti Minstrel" to your collection.

The disc starts out with the festive "Bacchanal". The rhythm section is superb as Sonny's flute floats and darts like a Brazilian dancer at carnival. "The Afro-Americans" is a percussion driven groove with off-beat handclaps to lay a solid foundation for some colorful solo work from Fortune and Shaw. Sonny switches to Soprano on the Latin-vibed "There's Nothing Smart About Being Stupid". At the start, Woody and Sonny play in unison before splitting off to show their respective chops as great soloist. In between, Barron and DeJohnette are exceptional. The title track is ten minutes of pure musical entertainment. The music starts out kind of mysterious and subdued with Gary King showing off his chops with some great bass harmonics. The track then shifts to a very funky groove coupled with several time-shifts to tease your ears before moving into a very passionate dance between the percussion, handclaps and saxophone. On this track, Fortune reminds me of John Coltrane when he continuously reinterprets his soprano statements several times before exploding into a torrential swirl of cascading energy. The musicians displayed excellent chemistry throughout with percussionists Sammy Figueroa and Rafael Cruz laying down some mean rhythms to spice up the sound. Guitarist, Jack Wilkins duets with Fortune's Flute on the lovely "Never Again Is Such A Long Time". This beautiful composition adds a nice touch of softness to an otherwise smoldering disc.

From my perspective, the real magic happens on this recording because Sonny Fortune and Jack Dejohnette are locked in as they push and challenge each other so brilliantly. Having played the vinyl LP until it finally gave up the ghost years ago, it is great to add this CD to my Jazz collection. After being out of circulation for over 30+ years, I salute Wounded Bird for bringing forth another musical treasure to help me complete my "Gotta-Have-It" list. I would like to strongly encourage them to locate and release two other Sonny Fortune jewels from the 70's. "Awakening" (1975) and "Waves Of Dreams" (1976) both are excellent recordings and feature the brilliant trumpet of Charles Sullivan . In the meantime, keep up the good work. "Serengeti Minstrel" will keep me smiling for a long time. Peace!!

1 comment:

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