A Family Affair
Ira Sullivan hasn’t lived in Chicago since 1963, when he moved to Florida to bask in the warmer climes, teach and perform with/mentor young players in the Miami area. But he is still regarded as a hometown hero in the Windy City, where he emerged as one of bebop’s strongest voices alongside such peers as Johnny Griffin and Wilbur Campbell. When he comes back to town to play Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase—or, as he did last year, the Chicago Jazz Festival, which celebrated his 80th birthday—it’s an event.
A Family Affair was recorded at the Showcase with another old partner in bop, vibraphonist/pianist Stu Katz. After all these years, Sullivan’s multi-instrumental brilliance still dazzles. On a new original, “Blues Two Views,” he splits the difference between muted trumpet (hard-edged and lyrical) and tenor saxophone (blues-tough and breathy-tender). He switches to soprano saxophone on “Yesterdays,” awakening the Jerome Kern standard with a ripping intensity you don’t often hear on the instrument or the song.
Sullivan’s first-rate rhythm section on most of the cuts is pianist Dan Trudell, bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas. There are lively walk-ons by scat singer Lucia Newell, wife of album engineer Steve Wiese, and bassist Steve Katz, Stu’s son (the album producer). A Family Affair is also named for the brotherhood of Sullivan, Katz and Segal, and for the extended family that has made Chicago a jazz mecca for so long.