by Dorphresie Sneed
A 28-year-old pianist from New Orleans, Sullivan Fortner announces his debut album for impulse! Records entitled, Aria. Beginning with the percussive original title-track Sullivan establishes a repetitive dance-like rhythm that is both modern and rooted in the classics with a good dose of Latin jazz. Fortner displays formidable skills as an improviser with passages that are both sophisticated harmonically as well as placed perfectly in time. “Aria” is part of a six-movement suite, “Expansions: Suite in ‘B’ for Jazz Quintet,” which was commissioned by New York City’s Jazz Gallery. Fortner uses three other compositions from “Expansions” on the album – the capricious “Parade,” which is distinguished by a cheerful melody and a pulling rhythmic undercurrent, the dancing “Passepied,” inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s French dance suites; and the active “Finale,” which implies a second-line drumming rhythm inspired by Fortner’s Crescent City hometown.
Fortner reveals his love for Monk with his take on “I Mean You.” Fortner’s solo is full of intricate rhythms and clean articulated melodies. Dyson and Carroll give Fortner ample support and the three converse effortlessly. Fred Rogers’ (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) “You Are Special,” is included in the program. “As a little kid, I grew up watching that show and being in awe with the music, especially the piano player,” Fortner recalls. Fortner’s take of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s, “All The Things You Are,” is a subtle tribute to the late pianist Cedar Walton. Likewise, Fortner’s sentimental interpretation of Duke Pearson’s ballad, “You Know I Care,” is a tribute to trumpeter Roy Hargrove.