Friday, May 13, 2011

Travis Sullivan - New Directions (Posi-Tone, 2011)

Saxophonist, composer and educator Travis Sullivan has an appealing sound and develops strong melodic mainstream jazz here, with an intelligently mixed program cookers, mid-tempo numbers and ballads anchored by his strong playing on saxophone. He is accompanied by Mike Eckroth on piano, Marco Panascia bass, and Brian Fishleron drums. While "Jamia's Dance" is a medium tempo opener with a fine flowing saxophone solo, "Autumn in new Hampshire" is a particularly poignant ballad, more dark toned and elegiac, reflecting the autumn of leaf less trees and melancholic moonlight than that of colorful foliage. "Spring" carries on the seasonal theme, also a ballad featuring lush and patient saxophone. "Hidden Agenda" ups the ante to a swinging fast tempo and their exploration of the light-speed realms concludes with "Tuneology," a performance that recalls Atlantic-period John Coltrane in its speed and texture, both on the cascading saxophone solo and the rippling piano interlude. "Georgie" and the pop cover "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" slow things back down to a medium boil with the former developing quartet dynamics, with Sullivan picking up the pace to a boppish feel, building to a peak of emotion before relinquishing the spotlight to the piano, bass and drums rhythm section. The Tears for Fears cover uses bass as the pivot point around which the music revolves. The saxophone teases at the melody before the bass and drums shift into a funk feel with light saxophone improvising across them. Sullivan develops his performances thoughtfully and thematically, and examples can be found on the album ending tracks, "Magic Monday" and "New Directions" where he builds his solos sounding fast and confident over a strong backbeat. New Directions -

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