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District Jazz

Sonny Fortune at Blues Alley

By Published: October 15, 2003
After the music stopped and I sat watching the musicians breakdown their instruments, I found a sense of dissatisfaction descending, the source of which I couldn’t quite locate until later, ascribing the whole thing to the late hour and the intensity of the music just experienced. But the feeling persisted, and I eventually located its source. There was something disturbing in Fortune’s devotional display, in the way he has, over the years, so closely associated himself with every aspect of Coltrane’s work. Well, much of it, since he seems to have abandoned Coltrane’s later experiments for the more structured Quartet and “sheets-of-sound” period. Perhaps that was it. At times, it felt like watching someone deliberately lose themselves in Central Park in order to use scoutsmanship to find their way back to 6th Avenue. After all, it wasn’t the extended solos in and of themselves that defined Coltrane, it was the intent behind them, the desire to access the next level, the next breakthrough, a semi-mystical musical discovery that imbued Coltrane’s improvisational flights with force and power. Despite the absolute brilliance of Fortune’s playing, I left wishing to hear him embark further down the path.

Or perhaps, I just wanted what it seems Fortune wants; for Coltrane to still be playing; for the music to still hold itself gleaming and bright before an enchanted audience; for that period of time to return when jazz seemed to embody the spirit of change, or progress—of enlightened minds seeking something beyond corporeal limits and venal concerns.

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