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Sullivan Fortner, a brilliant solo gamer

tue 23 apr 2024
Theme: Jazz

Saturday April 27th, 2024, 8:00 PM – Jazz Piano.

Pianist Sullivan Fortner (1986) grew up in New Orleans. He is one of the many jazz musicians for whom church music is one of the earliest sources of inspiration. His mother is a choir conductor – Sullivan climbed onto the organ bench at the age of seven.

When he spreads his wings in a later phase, things go fast. At the age of 24 he plays in the quintet of trumpeter Roy Hargrove. In 2015 he made his recording debut as a leader: Aria (Impulse! Records). Solo Game (2023, Artwork Records) is his fourth album. His choice of repertoire shows his roots in the jazz tradition. In addition – and at the same time – he profiles himself with new routes in unknown territory.

Thelonious Monk’s I Mean You is on the 2015 album Aria. In a quartet line-up with sax, bass and drums, Fortner immediately adapts the theme to his will, including a metric shift. The improvisations include some cunningly packaged Monk quotes. The ‘groupiness’ content of the quartet is high.

Duke Ellington receives a tribute on the album Moments Preserved (2018). In a Sentimental Mood also gets a Fortner treatment, but the mood is retained in the theme. The B part of the form, the bridge, contains a remarkable reversal: the melody shifts to the bass, while the – idiosyncratic – accompaniment sounds in the high register. An ‘orchestral’ effect that we do not often hear in jazz piano. This raises the question: why, in jazz, are the lower registers on a keyboard instrument used so little for melodic functions?

Cute (Solo Game) offers a quick change in textures, including a contrapuntal left hand. This is not at the expense of clarity. A musical and pianistic tour de force.

In total you will hear eight pieces, and an interview with Fortner.

Solo Game contains 2 CDs. The first one features piano work. On CD 2 we enter a new universe. Fortner taps from other musical sources and goes all out instrumentally. In addition to piano, he plays Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3, Moog, Celesta, Triangel, Chimes, Drums, Egg Shaker, Mongolian Gong and other percussion material. A hand clapper also joins. Those pieces are outside this programme. Yes, he’s really something, that Sullivan.