From the generation of post-bop saxophonists following in the shadow of John Coltrane, multi-instrumentalist Sonny Fortune comes closest to capturing Coltrane's spirit and intensity. Since the late 1960s, Fortune has made an indelible mark on jazz history, collaborating with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis and Mongo Santamaria, among other luminaries. Despite his numerous side-man appearances and a fertile solo career, he remains a respected but unsung hero of the jazz cognoscenti.
Dominated by standards and traditional tunes, You and the Night and the Music is a rarity in his oeuvre. The majority of Fortune's discography concentrates on his own compositions augmented with the occasional classic cover tune. Two Thelonious Monk tributes, Monk's Mood (Konnex, 1995) and Four In One (Blue Note, 1993), are the only sessions released under his own name where he isn't the primary writer.
Reveling in the tight-knit camaraderie of a veteran ensemble, his previous release, Continuum (Sound Reason, 2004), featured a similar line-up. Pianist George Cables, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Steve Johns have all played with Fortune for well over a decade. With effusive commentary and attentive interaction, they revitalize these durable favorites with inspired verve and subtle twists.
At age 68 Fortune shows no sign of losing steam. His tart alto tone and keening vibrato uncoil rapid-fire intervallic leaps and roiling cadences on a sweltering reading of "BeBop." Even the old chestnut, "Sweet Georgia Brown," is given a punchy reading as the quartet careens along with visceral ebullience.
Borrowing rhythmic traditions south of the border, the title track and "The End of a Love Affair" simmer over percolating Latin grooves. With winning invention, Henry Mancini's lilting "Charade" is given a noir-ish twist, transformed into a sultry escapade. Revealing a tender side, the leader's lyrical flute work on "'Round Midnight" and Cable's own "Love Song" attest to his melodic gifts.
Demonstrating melodic maturity, deep-seated respect for tradition and an adventurous improvisational spirit, Fortune's tight-knit quartet re-envisions timeless standards as fertile launching pads for continued exploration.
Personnel: Sonny Fortune: alto saxophone, flute; George Cables: piano; Chip Jackson: double bass; Steve Johns: drums.