RIP Sonny Fortune

In the early 2000s, I saw Sonny Fortune and Rashied Ali play duo at Sweet Rhythm. The set was “Cherokee” for an hour. After Ali set up the “Indian tom tom” intro, Fortune played for forty minutes, Ali soloed for about ten, and then Fortune played another ten. No bass; no piano: Duo.

Ali was no Max Roach when it came to uptempo bebop, but he hung in there. His stamina was one reason Coltrane hired him all those years ago. Fortune played a mixture of Bird and Trane spiced with his personal kind of incandescent lyricism.

They were already old men but they were there to prove something about intensity, black music, and the lineage. Cecil Taylor was in the corner, grinning. It was a real New York night of real New York jazz.