Home » Jazz Articles » Sullivan Fortner: Aria

6
Album Review

Sullivan Fortner: Aria

By

Sign in to view read count
Sullivan Fortner: Aria
New Orleans has produced a bumper crop of notable pianists over its long and storied history—Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, Harry Connick, Jr., Jon Batiste—and it's not done yet. Sullivan Fortner, a twenty-eight year old piano phenom who's been a hot topic since receiving the American Pianists Association's 2015 Cole Porter Fellow award, is the latest notable NOLA piano export to register on a national level. He's done his homework, having studied with piano masters like Marsalis, Fred Hersch, Peter Martin, Jason Moran, and Phil Markowitz; he's made some considerable contributions as a sideman, having worked with vibraphonist Stefon Harris, rising star clarinetist Oran Etkin, and trumpeter Theo Croker; and now, Fortner is poised to make his mark as a leader with his debut on the revived-and-thriving Impulse! imprint.

Aria, featuring a spry quartet consisting of Fortner, bassist Aidan Carroll, drummer Joe Dyson, and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, opens on a trio of originals that highlight the leader's sophisticated yet earthy way(s) with the pen and the piano. The title track is six-and-a-half minutes of forward motion, with Fortner's piano leading the charge, Caroll's bass bouncing about, Penticott's squirrelly soprano circling around, and Dyson's dynamic drumming weaving in, out, in front of, and behind it all. "Ballade," in contrast, moves in soulful fashion, while "Parade" presents as a harmonic triptych detailing the different emotions connected to Crescent City funeral processions. Each of those numbers points to different facets of Fortner's artistry, and when taken together, they help to show how expansive his skill set really is.

As the album continues, Fortner finds his way onto more familiar ground, bringing creative flair tempered by judiciousness to standards and songbook favorites. Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" becomes a study on walking a hip line between accord and discord, Fred Rogers' "You Are Special" is a waltz-time world of possibility that's ripe for the taking, "All The Things You Are" is stripped of its old hat swing feel and given a natty groove update, and "You Know I Care" is trio synchronicity and reverie rolled into one. And then, sitting between two more originals and holding the penultimate position in the running order, there's Fortner's solo piano performance of "For All We Know"—a fragile and slow-moving emotional catharsis that's pure perfection. Debuts don't get any better than this.

Track Listing

Aria; Ballade; Parade; I Mean You; You Are Special; All The Things You Are; You Know I Care; Passepied; For All We Know; Finale.

Personnel

Sullivan Fortner: piano; Tivon Penticott: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Aidan Carroll: bass; Joe Dyson: drums.

Album information

Title: Aria | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Impulse!


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

Twelve
Noam Lemish
Quietude
Eliane Elias
One More Please
Tim Berne & Matt Mitchell
Thoughts & Images
Alex Tremblay

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.