A most intriguing and innovative contributor to jazz history, Ira Sullivan was a multi-instrumentalist (sax, flute, trumpet) who played some mean bebop early in his career with the likes of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Roland Kirk and Art Blakey but became more renowned later as one of the country’s leading jazz educators. In the wake of his passing at age 89 in 2020, it makes delightful, exotic, fusion-fired and hard swinging sense to pay homage to his multi-faceted legacy via an ensemble of musicians based in Sullivan’s longtime adopted home base of Miami.
Under the leadership of Cuban guitarist Miriam Stone, owner of Blue Road Records Studio, The Blue Road Records Band’s deeply lyrical, intensely grooving and transcendently exotic collection Ira The Tribute Album features stellar talents from Venezuela (guitarist Leo Quintero, double bassist Javier Espinosa), Peru (drummer/percussionist Kevin Abanto) and Cuban-born keyboardist and sax player Yainer Horta. Rounding out the group and making the invigorating emotion an intensely personal family affair is Brev Sullivan, the band’s other lead guitarist and Ira’s beloved son.
There’s a colorful anecdote behind every tune, from the fiery spin through “I Get a Kick Out of You” to Ira Sullivan’s own stellar compositions that showed a stylistic range from lighthearted swing (“Monday’s Dance” and blistering rock/fusion (“Multimedia,” “Ninevah”) to spacious/atmospheric (“Icarus”) and intensely buoyant Latin jazz (“Espresso Bueno”). Ira Sullivan’s musical signature was “Amazing Grace,” which he closed every every performance with for decades.
For all the artsy frolic and unique excursions that come before it, the true heart and soul of this amazing tribute is the acoustic closer of this timeless spiritual featuring Brev Sullivan as the sole guitarist on three textured tracks.