Thursday, May 25, 2017

Charles Sullivan - 1974 - Genesis

Charles Sullivan 

01. Evening Song 8:22
02. Good-Bye Sweet John (In Memory Of John Foster: Pianist) 5:50
03. Field Holler 3:51
04. Now I'll Sleep 4:32
05. Genesis 17:27

Alto Saxophone – Sonny Fortune
Bass – Alex Blake , Anthony Jackson (tracks: A3)
Congas, Percussion – Lawrence Killian
Drums – Alphonse Mouzon (tracks: A3), Billy Hart
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – L. Sharon Freeman (tracks: A3)
Piano – Onaje Allen Gumbs (tracks: A2), Stanley Cowell
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Composed By, Arranged By, Producer – Charles Sullivan
Vocals – Dee Dee Bridgewater

Recorded at Sound Ideas, N.Y.C. 6/20 6/21 1974.
"Field Holler" recorded at Minot Sound, White Plains, N.Y. 7/24/74.

A most underrated trumpeter, Charles Sullivan has excellent technique, fine tone, a bright, shimmering sound, and is effective in hard bop, free, big band, or bebop contexts. He's simply not gotten the credit he deserves, though he also doesn't have a large legacy of recordings to tout. Sullivan studied at the Manhattan School of Music in the '60s, and worked for off-Broadway productions. He played with Lionel Hampton and Roy Haynes' Hip Ensemble in the late '60s, then toured briefly as Count Basie's lead trumpeter in 1970 and with Lonnie Liston Smith in 1971. He played with Sy Oliver in 1972, and Norman Connors in 1973. Sullivan toured Europe and recorded with Abdullah Ibrahim in 1973 as well, then worked and recorded with Sonny Fortune, Carlos Garnett, Bennie Maupin, Ricky Ford, Eddie Jefferson, and Woody Shaw, as well as cutting his own records, through the remainder of the '70s. Despite all that activity, Sullivan couldn't expand his audience nor gain more recognition. He began heading the band Black Legacy in the late '70s and continued into the '80s. Sullivan currently has no sessions available on CD, but can be heard on reissues by Shaw, Jefferson, Maupin, Fortune, and others.

Charles Sullivan has always been highly regarded by his peers if a bit obscure to the general jazz-listening public. He started playing around New York City in 1966, and worked with a diverse collection of leaders including Sy Oliver, the Collective Black Artists, Lionel Hampton, the Jazz Composer's Workshop, and Count Basie, as well as working the pit bands of several Broadway shows.

This 1976 Strata-East album, was Charles Sullivan first release as a leader using his own material. He is joined by a number of excellent musicians, including Alex Black on bass, Sonny Fortune on alto sax, Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Billy Hart on drums, Stanley Cowell on piano, and others. This is a long overdue release, and one no jazz fan will want to miss.

Trumpeter, flügelhornist, and composer Charles Sullivan -- pegged as a poor man's Lee Morgan or Woody Shaw -- toiled in many mainstream or progressive big bands of the 1970s, languishing in obscurity until breaking through with this, his debut as a leader. Using a spare, warm tone, Sullivan was a cool customer in the firestorm of progressive jazz and fusion of the day, adapting those idioms to his own brand of personalized jazz. Because of his many professional associations, he was able to employ true cream-of-the-crop musicians like pianists Stanley Cowell, Onaje Allan Gumbs, and Sharon Freeman, saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist Alex Blake, percussionist Lawrence Killian, and drummer Billy Hart to play his original compositions. Of the five selections, each has its own distinctive flair, taking from different modern jazz elements prevalent to the time frame while not stuck in a rut with any of them. As the very first piece he ever wrote, "Evening Song" is compelling with its Latin beat and modal montuno piano where Sullivan takes an extended solo, with Cowell also featured before the trumpeter returns for more. A solemn duet with Gumbs for the late pianist John Foster on "Goodbye Sweet John" contrasts with the funky fusion tune "Field Holler," with Freeman's stabbing electric Fender Rhodes chord-driven lines, featuring Alphonse Mouzon's powerhouse drumming and the electric bass of Anthony Jackson, with a lyrical and basic Sullivan sounding influenced by James Brown. The remainder of the recording is a twofold message of despair and renewal, as Dee Dee Bridgewater sings beautifully in the paradox song "Now I'll Sleep," about suicide, with the lyric that one might "choose to lose, afraid to love" with Sullivan's horn in way late. "Genesis" is a 17-plus-minute workout that rises from those sullen ashes with an Afro-modal stance similar to Frank Foster's Loud Minority of the same era. Cowell's piano and the impressive tandem of Sullivan and Fortune's fiery alto sax push the ensemble to the limits of African-American progressive jazz expressionism. This recording received a five-star rating in Down Beat magazine, and while there are too few Charles Sullivan recordings in the marketplace, it's well deserving of this accolade as one of the very best post-bop efforts of its decade, and now available on CD.



  2. Thank you Drago!