The "Ira" whose name appears above the marquee here is the late Ira Sullivan, a remarkable musician known as much for his versatility as his creativity. Sullivan, whose career spanned seven decades until his death in September 2020 at age eighty-nine, is warmly saluted on Ira: The Tribute Album by the six-member Blue Road Records Band, whose members include Sullivan's son, Brev, on lead guitar. Another member, guitarist Miriam Stone, is a long-time Ira Sullivan fan and owner of Miami's Blue Road Records Studio, where the album was recorded.
With Leo Quintero making it a threesome, the session leans rather heavily on guitars for its melodic content, although keyboardist Yainer Horta weighs in occasionally (overdubbed) on alto or soprano saxophone. Quintero and bassist Javier Espinoza hail from Venezuela, Horta and Stone from Cuba, drummer/percussionist Kevin Abanto from Peru. Brev Sullivan is the lone American-born member of the sextet. Ira Sullivan wrote three of the album's ten numbers, Brev Sullivan one ("Espresso Bueno"). There is one standard, Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You," and one bop classic, Tadd Dameron's "Our Delight."
Ira Sullivan's themes are "Monday's Dance," "Multimedia" and "Nineveh," and they are among the album's highlights, relying on persuasive melodies, admirable solos by the (unnamed) guitarists, and stalwart timekeeping by Abanto. Even so, topmost honors must be accorded to "I Get a Kick," "Our Delight" and the charming "Little Train of Caipira," by Heitor Villa Lobos, with the lively "Espresso Bueno" standing its ground in fast company (in the case of Porter's masterpiece, especially fast). The album closes with a quiet version of William Walker's familiar hymn, "Amazing Grace," a song regularly used by Ira Sullivan as an onstage finale.
As an homage to Sullivan's brilliance, Ira: The Tribute Album has much to admire. What it does not have, of course, is Ira Sullivan himself, a musician whose remarkable talents and impressive longevity were unrivaled. Even so, high marks for group interplay, choice of music and sincerity.
I Get a Kick Out of You; Monday’s Dance; Circumstantial; Multimedia; Icarus; Nineveh; Our
Delight; Little Train of Caipira; Espresso Bueno; Amazing Grace.
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