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Sullivan Fortner: Aria

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Pianist Sullivan Fortner’s dazzling debut album is the sort of tradition-steeped modernism that so many Young Lions following Wynton Marsalis rode to stardom in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Its opener, “Aria,” is followed in quick succession by two more Fortner originals: “Ballade,” dedicated to his mother; and “Parade,” a nod to the 28-year-old’s New Orleans heritage. “Passepied” arrives several tracks later and has intriguing Baroque-period dance roots, with altered rhythms that Fortner compares to “bebop in 7” in the liner notes. The uptempo set closer, “Finale,” like “Aria,” began life as a movement in a six-part suite written for the Jazz Gallery. Half of the album’s 10 tracks are covers, among them “All the Things You Are,” a hip, two-handed arrangement of Fred Rogers’ “You Are Special” (yes, that Mister Rogers), and a version of the Thelonious Monk/Coleman Hawkins collaboration “I Mean You” that demonstrates Fortner and his young colleagues’ way with jazz history.

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