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Album Review

Sultan Stevenson: Faithful One


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Sultan Stevenson: Faithful One
It is rare for a debut album by a young musician to merit four stars, but Faithful One, by the 22 year old London pianist and composer Sultan Stevenson, deserves every shining one of them. An alumnus of the community programme Tomorrow's Warriors, in his liner note he singles out the Warriors' founders, Gary Crosby and Janine Irons, and one of its tutors, tenor saxophonist Binker Golding, for special thanks. Stevenson has been a fast study. For confirmation of that, check the YouTube clip below.

On Faithful One, Stevenson leads his regular trio with bassist Jacob Gryn and drummer Joel Waters. They are augmented on half of the tracks by Josh Short on trumpet and another Tomorrow's Warrior, the great Denys Baptiste, on tenor saxophone—bar Baptiste, the same lineup as on the YouTube (which, by the way, was filmed back in January 2021). All the tracks were composed and arranged by Stevenson.

Stevenson's formative influences McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock are audible, but already his playing has taken on its own character. He has technique to spare but, more importantly, he swings. He makes effective use of contrasts, in dynamics and in line, spinning effortlessly between piano and forte and from reflective, economical single-note passages to passionate chordal ones. He also has a mature awareness of the value of space and silence, of still centers among hurricanes of sound.

All but one of the eleven tracks on the fifty-minute disc are concise, and their arrangements include considerable through-writing. The horns, when included, mainly deliver theme statements with gritty hard-boppish voicings and simple counterpoints. The exception is "To Be Seen," which at 09:34 is by around three minutes the longest track and includes brief solos from Baptiste and Short (as does the shorter "Summer Was Our Holy Place").

The presence of Baptiste on the album is more than welcome. His most recent own-name release is the highly recommended The Last Trane (Edition, 2017). It is time someone made Baptiste an offer he cannot refuse and got him into a studio to record a new disc.

Stevenson is launching Faithful One at London's Jazz Café on Friday 31 March 2023. Baptiste will not be in the lineup that night, but his replacement will be rising tenor star Ruben Fox. The rest of the band will be as on the album. It promises to be a good gig.

Track Listing

Foreword; Guilty By Association; Prayer; To Be Seen; Safe Passage; Thank You, Thank You God; Summer Was Our Holy Place; He Has Made Me Whole; Faithful One; Faithful One (Reprise); Afterword.


Sultan Stevenson: piano; Jacob Gryn: bass, acoustic; Joel Waters: drums; Denys Baptiste: saxophone; Josh Short: trumpet.

Additional Instrumentation

Denys Baptiste - tenor saxophone (1, 3, 7, 9, 10); Josh Short: trumpet (1, 3, 7, 9, 10).

Album information

Title: Faithful One | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings

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