Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Sullivan Fortner: Aria

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

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.

About that band: Tivon Pennicott has played tenor and soprano saxophone everywhere, from touring with Kenny Burrell while still in college to appearing on Grammy-winning albums by Esperanza Spalding and Gregory Porter. Bassist Aidan Carroll remains sufficiently unknown to have his surname misspelled twice in the album credits (though not in Fortner’s thank you’s), despite touring with Lisa Fischer, enjoying a soul-rock stint with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds and releasing his own debut jazz album, Original Vision, last year. Drummer Joe Dyson, a grade-school pal of Fortner’s, is also in the latest band of their fellow New Orleanian Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. All fitting companions for a pianist on the rise.

Originally Published