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Ira Sullivan: After Hours

There is enough energy in this combination of two sessions to “unroll” all of California’s blackouts for the foreseeable future. Recorded during the spring of ’96 and the spring of ’98, it makes you wonder why it takes some labels and some producers so long “to reach into the bag and really see what was there,” to quote one of After Hours’ three producers.

Man, that’s frustrating, considering one of those producers was the sessions’ drummer, Kenny Horst. Word simply had to get around sooner. This is a treasure trove of how bop has evolved and how brilliantly all the forces (Sullivan on soprano and tenor saxes, plus rhythm) push the envelope without spilling over into atonality.

Sullivan, who was 65 and 67 at the time of the recordings (all three sessions took place between 2 and 5 a.m. at Minneapolis’ Artist’s Quarter), was at the top of his form, showing the fluidity and lyricism of Coltrane on both horns. That latter quality comes through on Benny Carter’s beautiful “Key Largo” and, most surprisingly, on Dizzy’s “Con Alma.” You get the feeling that if “Con Alma” had been taken any slower it would have fallen apart. That it didn’t is a tribute to the concentration of bassist Billy Peterson, drummer Horst and pianist Bill Carrothers.

Another pianist, Bobby Peterson, used on two of the eight tracks, nearly steals the show with his sensational solo and comping on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” But nothing can detract from Ira Sullivan.

Originally Published