Sonny Fortune

Sonny Fortune, an accomplished saxophonist, died on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 79.

His death was due to complications of a stroke.

He was born in Philadelphia on May 19, 1939, to Cornelius and Margaret Fortune. He attended Northeast High School. During his youth, Fortune was a doo-wop singer. He later turned to the saxophone, deciding at 18 to pursue a career in jazz.

After studying at Philadelphia’s Granoff School of Music, Fortune remained in the city for nearly a decade, working in rhythm and blues and jazz bands.

Fortune moved to New York in 1967, after being encouraged by John Coltrane. After a brief stint with Elvin Jones’s ensemble and Frank Foster, he joined the group of Mongo Santamaria, where he remained for more than two years.

He went on to play for vocalist Leon Thomas before joining McCoy Tyner, with whom he played for 2½ years. During this period, he started playing the soprano sax and made contributions on Tyner’s albums “Sahara,” “Song for My Lady” and “Song of the New World.”

Fortune began his solo career in 1974 with the release of the album “Before Our Mothers Cried.” The following year, he formed his own quartet. He produced two albums for the Horizon label, “Awakening” and “Field of Dreams.” He has released many albums since then.

Throughout his career, Fortune also performed and recorded with such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, Nat Adderly and George Benson.

In recent years, Fortune played with 4 Generations of Miles, a group of Davis alumni. He also continued his own career. He signed with Blue Note Records in the mid-1990s and released three albums on the label. His most recent release was a live album, “Last Night at Sweet Rhythm,” which bade farewell to a club known as Sweet Basil — one of his favorite performance venues.

He is survived by: his son, Duane Fortune; two grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

ajones@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5747

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