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The Jazz Word reviews Travis Sullivan “New Directions”…

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Alto saxophonist Travis Sullivan leads a perceptive quartet through a diverse set of his original tunes and a couple of covers on New Directions, his third release as a leader and debut for Posi-Tone Records. Aside from small group endeavors, the New York-based Sullivan leads his own 18-piece big band Bjorkestra, performing arrangements of the Icelandic pop icon Bjork.

Sullivan has a mature, lyrical sensibility, emphasizing melody and clearly focused thematic developments in his solos. Although at home in a variety of contemporary settings, including the Tears for Fears pop anthem “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Sullivan excels on the disc’s more straight-ahead fare. Tunes such as the boppish “Tuneology,” the Rodgers and Hart ballad “Spring is Here” and the funk-meets-swing title track serve the saxophonist’s expressive leanings.

Pianist Mike Eckroth, bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Brian Fishler play up to the challenge of Sullivan’s compositional demands, bringing a relaxed playfulness to the odd-metered “Hidden Agenda” and the open-ended “Autumn in NH,” a conversational vehicle with inspired results.

An enticing quartet with thoughtfulness and intensity, Sullivan and crew are forward thinkers with a firm understanding of what the tradition has to offer. New Directions is a stand-out jazz disc worthy of repeated listening.


Written by editor

July 6th, 2011 at 10:40 am

Posted in Reviews

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