When jazz musicians get together on stage, there is always the chance that sparks will fly - assuming that all those involved are open to the possibilities, listen to each other, and have something to say. Then and only then may the audience witness a creative process in which an exchange of energy and ideas plays out. It is through this process the history of this music – jazz – is expanded, and a new nuance is woven into its rich fabric..... [more]
Cover: Mehmet Dedeoglu / Robert Schalinski
Sonny Fortune - Altosax, Flute, Percussion
Karl Schloz- Guitar
Matthias Bätzel - Hammond B3 Organ
Ernst Bier - Drums
||From now on
||Hangin out with J.C.
Recorded live at the A-Trane in Berlin, Germany July 15th and 16th 2005
Engineer : Uwe Hinkel and Holger Schwark
Mixed and Mastered by Rainer Robben at www.audiocue.de
Photos by Mehmet Dedeoglu
Text : Karl Schloz, Ulf Drechsel
Translation : Marty Cook
Produced by Manfred Schiek
[Band info here......]
When jazz musicians get together on stage, there is always the chance that sparks will fly - assuming that all those involved are open to the possibilities, listen to each other, and have something to say. Then and only then may the audience witness a creative process in which an exchange of energy and ideas plays out. It is through this process the history of this music – jazz – is expanded, and a new nuance is woven into its rich fabric. Such an encounter may be spontaneous or planned. In this case, it goes back to Manfred Schiek's, the head of Konnex Records, original idea. Manfred had previously recorded Sonny Fortune as well as Ernst Bier in a number of settings. In 2005 he proposed the idea of a co-operative group project to Ernst and Sonny Fortune. Berlin drummer Bier first met Fortune in New York in the 1980's at a time when the saxophonist was working with Elvin Jones and Ernst was concurrently studying with Elvin. Following Manfred Schiek's offer, a couple of long-distance phone calls cemented the deal, and the date was set: the 12th – 16th of July at the famous Berlin jazz club, the A-Trane.
Bier quickly put together a rhythm section: Guitarist Karl Schloz and Hammond B3 organist Matthais Bätzel were high-caliber players with whom Ernst had frequently worked over the years. Both have strong roots in the modern jazz tradition, but their playing is grounded in the present. Of course, the opportunity to play with Sonny Fortune was something special; Fortune, who was born in 1939, is considered to be one of the strongest virtuoso saxophonists of his generation. Fortune came to jazz at the age of 18, but he says that, "to find out whether or not I had what it takes to be a musician, I had to go to where it was happening – New York." He was 28 years old when he arrived in the Big Apple where he began playing with Elvin Jones, Frank Foster, and Mongo Santamaria. Later he worked with Leon Thomas and McCoy Tyner. At one point during the two and a half years he worked with Tyner, he turned down a gig with Miles Davis. Miles offered him the gig again in 1974; this time Sonny was his man – you can hear him on the Miles Davis albums "Big Fun", "Agartha", "Pangaea", and "Get Up With It".
Early on, Sonny Fortune was impressed and influenced by Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins, but to this day there is one player in particular that he respects – almost deifies: John Coltrane. Coltrane's 1959 album "My Favorite Things", gave Fortune the orientation for his own artistic path, a path along which he later met Coltrane personally. "John gave me direction in my life. Before I saw and heard him I was going nowhere in a hurry." is the way Sonny describes Coltrane's enormous influence on him. You can hear this influence in every tone of the A-Trane live recording. The explosive strength of Coltrane's tenor flows over into Fortune's alto saxophone playing, and it is immediately apparent in the soaring, incredibly intensive tour de force playing on the first two original compositions. Each band member was caught up in the flight, sharing his creative energy with the others. On Victor Young's ballad "Delilah", Fortune's brilliant flute playing bristles with vitality. On Kenny Barron's "Sunshower", Fortune again grabs hold of the Alto saxophone, and he and his colleagues on stage are once more magnificently in the game. The last piece, "Hanging Out With J.C." pays direct tribute to Coltrane. It is a sequel to his artistic calling, which began with "My Favorite Things", and continued with Fortune's meeting and, for a short time, working with Coltrane, followed by a New York concert with Elvin Jones on the night that John Coltrane died. Then there was the 1987/88 Coltrane Legacy Band with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Reggie Workman, and Sonny Fortune, and then again ten years later, a concert dedicated to Coltrane on the occasion of Elvin Jone's 70th birthday. And, finally, in July 2005 the week-long guest appearance in Berlin's A-TRANE. In this case there was no attempt to resurrect the legendary Coltrane line-up by adding piano and bass; instead, by bringing in Hammond organ and guitar, the band could form its own sound in which each of the four could contribute his individual voice. All this makes for an exciting encounter where, as we have said at the beginning, sparks fly.
A View From the Stage
Surprise. The unexpected. Perhaps these are the most common elements between the performer and listener at a jazz concert. The week of July 12-16 , 2005 at Berlin’s renowned jazz club A-Trane was certainly filled with this, from everyone’s perspective.
The opportunity to play with jazz-legend Sonny Fortune was a more-than-welcome surprise organized by Ernst Bier and Konnex records chief Manfred Schiek. Sonny’s recorded history, with Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, and Kenny Barron for example, added enough weight to the gig, plus the added anticipation that this would be one of his rare live recordings---always a risky proposition. Also, Sonny had not worked with an organ trio for decades. How would Sonny react to us? What would we play? Would we take the role as sidemen or play like a band?
As we met for the first time on a hot summer afternoon at the club for a rehearsal and sound check, Sonny’s authority was clear and very welcome. Plain spoken direction and a good dose of laughter set the tone. We would play Sonny’s compositions, which have the magical quality of sounding deceptively familiar and refreshing, but as I can attest, difficult to play. Tricky stuff. We would add in a few choice standards to “get the ball rolling” for each set. After starting the first tune, it was clear. Sonny wanted all of us to play, and he certainly gave us the space to do so. The unexpected? Sonny collected all of the music after the rehearsal and handed us the tunes he wanted play on the bandstand. New material every night, never played by us before.
The five performances that week contain the highest concentration and energy needed to play such challenging music. The highlights? Sonny’s truly original flute playing, as heard on “Delilah”, hypnotized both the audience and band. Playing the Coltrane tribute “Hanging Out with J.C.”, with Bätzel’s blazing organ work and Ernst’s relentless drive, not to mention Sonny’s masterful solo, lives up to the title. The grooving latin of “Sunshower” pulsates with the joy we were all having. The swinging was rampant, at times on the verge of the uncontrollable. Sonny’s tight and forceful alto sound; Bätzel’s swift and deft lines and Hammond-bass; Ernst’s enrgy and groove; the freedom I, myself, felt playing over such harmonically interesting tunes---proof that the unexpected can be a good, good thing.
The final surprise? Upon hearing the recordings months later, it was very clear. This is a band. Though I was there, on the stage playing guitar; the unexpected moments and tight sound bring me joy and satisfaction. The heat, sweat, energy, concentration, smiles, and surprise were captured forever.
Hold on tight. Listen deep. Take it all in. You might not expect what happens next.