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Hit Couleurs JAZZ

Sullivan Fortner offers us a kaleidoscopic repertoire on his first solo opus.

Moving from a Stevie Wonder theme to a standard like “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was“, played with an unusual, majestic slowness, or to Randy Weston’s rare “Congolese Children”, deconstructed by two hands in a repetitive, percussive vein, In his first CD devoted to solo piano, the pianist from New-Orleans displays the richness of an acoustic keyboard, previously appreciated in support of trumpeter Roy Hargrove, vibraphonist Stefon Harris or in duo with singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.

With the help of one of his mentors, Fred Hersch, Fortner has selected nine tracks covering a wide swath of jazz history, each with its own distinctive touch. An impressively diverse aesthetic in which the piano sometimes sounds like a sumptuously sonorous orchestra, from telluric basses to piquant high notes, and in which the independence of both hands manifests itself in a rhythmic approach that can undoubtedly be traced back to the pianist’s Louisiana origins.

At times, the emphasis is placed on a more cantabile approach to themes that are originally songs, such as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Once I Loved“, treated with great melodic sobriety. It’s a festival of beautiful piano that Fortner offers us, who has devoted the second CD to material entirely from his own pen, apart from a theme by…Chopin.

Here, Fortner takes a playful approach to acoustic, electric and electronic keyboards and percussion, multiplying tracks by means of re-recording, resulting in themes of impressive melodic density and rhythmic richness.

As the title “Game” indicates, Fortner plays with the possibilities offered by his instrumentarium without ever falling into demonstrative eclecticism. Each track is a finely honed gem with its own sonic and melodic identity. There’s a certain naïveté in this playful treatment of musical material – manifested in the brevity of some themes (from 15 seconds to one minute) – as if Fortner wanted to momentarily put aside his virtuosity and impressive harmonic baggage to make way for childlike inspiration, like a child exploring the infinite universe of sounds and rhythms on all fours.

An eminently refreshing approach, then, in which Fortner asserts himself as a polymorphously talented musician rather than a first-rate pianist.

Line up :

Sullivan Fortner : piano, keyboards, percussion

Solo Game by Sullivan Fortner was released by Artwork Records, on November 17, 2023.

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