Sonny Fortune Day

May 19, 1939 – October 25, 2018

A tribute to the passionate altoist

Altoist, flutist, and tenor saxophonist Cornelius “Sonny” Fortune was born on March 19, 1939, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Fortune did not start playing the alto saxophone until he was in his late teens, studying at the Granoff School of Music and freelancing for years in R&B bands.

After moving to New York in 1967, he worked with Elvin Jones, Mongo Santamaria (1968), Leon Thomas, McCoy Tyner (1971-73), and Buddy Rich (both his big band and smaller group).

Fortune gained some fame as the strongest soloist in Miles Davis’ band of 1974-75, recording on such albums as “Big Fun,” “Get Up With It,” “Agharta,” and “Pangaea.”

A fine altoist with a sound of his own and an excellent flutist, Fortune was equally effective when featured on tenor with Elvin Jones’ groups.

A post-bop soloist who first led his own record dates in 1974, Fortune also worked with Nat Adderley, George Benson, Roy Ayers, Gary Bartz, Pharoah Sanders, and had memorable duets with drummer Rashied Ali.

Here is a rare filmed performance by the McCoy Tyner Quartet on December 29, 1971, featuring Fortune playing flute, tenor, and soprano during a stirring performance.


Sonny Fortune – alto, soprano, flute
McCoy Tyner – piano
Calvin Hill – bass
Alphonse Mouzon – drums

-Scott Yanow