Pianist Sullivan Fortner, who also works in Roy Hargrove‘s band, just had to be recorded one day. Not only because he is a brilliant pianist, but also a prolific composer as well. Five of the songs from his debut album are original compositions, with the title track being the first movement of a six-part suite, a brimming opener which features Tivon Pennicott on soprano sax as his counterpart.
Sullivan then turns to more mellower sound on the ensuing “Ballade” where he reminds me of the great John Hicks with his approach and phrasing. The opening also sounds like Stevie Wonder‘s “Overjoyed” and then while reading the liner notes, it says that the song is dedicated to Sullivan’s mother who is a major Wonder fan. There you go. Tivon switches to tenor for some beautiful lines and melodic excursions. After an almost grueling “Parade” with its intricate movements, Sullivan turns to Monk for “I Mean You”. Another wild excursion with Tivon on tenor, fooling around with the theme until it becomes a mysterious entry.
Sullivan’s elegant playing is back for the Fred Rogers composition “You Are Special” which boasts with an understated bass solo by Aidan Caroll which somehow comes as a relief at this stage of the album. I have my problems with the overdone “All The Things You Are”, just recently recorded in three different, but imaginative versions by pianist Orrin Evans for his latest album (see review on these pages), but here, Sullivan uses the song’s verse only as a springboard to further develop a different melody where the bass again plays a vital role. A great interpretation and a great ending.
The Duke Pearson classic “You Know I Care”, strangely accredited here to David McHugh, and from Duke’s wonderful 1965 Atlantic LP “Honeybuns”, is played very soft and placid and is a beautiful repose from an otherwise pretty exciting release. There is an indistinct line between classical and jazz on “Passepied”, a very quiet piano solo on “For All We Know”, and the last movement of his six-part suite, called “Finale”, a splendid closer on this fine debut.
Sullivan was supposed to play Hamburg’s Fabrik tonight as member of the Roy Hargrove Quintet. Due to an illness, the show had to be postponed into the new year. The show at New Morning in Paris on October 24th has also been canceled.