Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sonny Fortune - 1975 - Awakening

Sonny Fortune 

01. Triple Threat 10:25
02. Nommo 9:38
03. Sunshower 5:14
04. For Duke And Cannon 2:58
05. Awakening 12:17

A1, A2, B3: Recorded September 8, 1975 at Sound Ideas, New York City.
B1: Recorded September 9, 1975 at Sound Ideas, New York City.
B2: Recorded August 28, 1975 at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City.

"Clifford Adams, trombone and Leonard Gibbs, percussion, played on several selections which, regretfully, are not included on this album"

Wayne Dockery: Bass
Sonny Fortune: Chimes, Claves, Cowbell, Flute, Percussion, Sax, Shaker
Billy Hart: Drums
John Hicks: Piano
Chip Lyle:Drums
Chipper Lyles: Drums
Charles Sullivan: Flugelhorn, Trumpet
Reggie Workman: Bass

Sonny Fortune's second LP as a leader is an adequate set of mostly straight-ahead jazz, which sets it apart from many of his fusion-venturing peers of the '70s. With a slate of expert, professional sidemen (Billy Hart, John Hicks, Reggie Workman, Charles Sullivan, etc), Awakening never amazes, but it also never disappoints. Fortune, as usual, offers several spirited solos, while his cohorts incessantly swing. Straight-ahead jazz fans will appreciate this yeoman set.

It was a time of commercial oriented excesses under the cape of Fusion but Fortune who’d recently started recording as a leader wasn’t buying it, and keeps an unaffected and uncompromising posture in an album of straight ahead Jazz which nevertheless ventures into diversified fields that mirror the sax player’s broad horizons earned while working with masters as different as Mongo Santamaria, McCoy Tyner or Miles Davis. 

“Triple Threat” opens up with a threatening appeal and a bouncy pulsation driven by Wayne Dockery relentless walking bass and Billy Hart’s energizing in front of the beat time keeping unexpected fills and punchy snare accents; after Fortune’s torrid solo Charles Sullivan initially seems hesitant until his trebly trumpet injects a both cooling and reinvigorating breeze, whereas Reggie Workman – who replaces Dockery just for the occasion –opens “Nommo” up with a both creepy and humor filled mixture of bowed and pizzicato bass intro, before the band joins in and wallows in a breakneck speed, Afro-Latin infected groove (its vigor boosted by Angel Allende’s congas and Fortune’s hectic  doubling on cowbell) , masterfully lead by Kenny Barron’s stimulating piano and perfectly suited for exultant and vibrant alto acrobatics. 

Side 2 embraces a more soothing philosophy, kicking off with Barron’s contemplative and glittering “Sunshower” with Fortune doubling on sax and flute and the latter’s fluttering flurries illustrating the tune’s title, appeasing with Fortune’s  gorgeous “For Duke and Cannon” a slick ballad and an heartfelt tribute to Duke’s compositional accomplishments and Cannonball’s satiny tone and talented solo constructions, the result of a previously held recording session and the only occasion when the piano and drums slots were occupied by John Hicks and Chip Lyles respectively. 

With the wah-wah treated flute like flocks of birds chirping all around,  bass glissandos and assorted percussions contributing to the atmospheric painting of a dawn at the forest, Fortune honors once more the solid Latin roots developed in his past career on the 12 minutes plus title track and his only other original composition ; Sullivan shifts to flugelhorn whose velvety tone better integrates the flowing and warm vibe of the piece as does Barron’s Fender Rhodes with its Hancock-esque Funky approach while the leader proves he’s a mind-blowing flutist too. 

Devoid of groundbreaking excursions but including not a single disappointing moment this is a very worthy listen; however it’s an album which apparently sunk into oblivion; had it been released by any of the big-three Jazz labels and I’m sure it would have already been reissued in CD; Horizon being a subsidiary of the mainstream Pop and Rock currents representative A & M it is collecting dust on the label archives; with a title like “Awakening” what else can one do to amplify this wake-up call?

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