Ira Sullivan

Blue Stroll

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Many years have passed since Ira Sullivan, who turned 80 on May 1, 2011, left Chicago. The multi-hornman moved to Florida in the early '60s, and he never moved back to the Windy City. But Sullivan was so revered on the Chicago jazz scene of the '50s that local musicians still associate him with Chi-Town after all these years. Sullivan was still living in Chicago when, in 1959, he recorded Blue Stroll, an excellent hard bop date that united him with tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, pianist Jodie Christian, bassist Victor Sproles, and drummer Wilbur Campbell. The musicians' rapport is as strong on "Wilbur's Tune" (Delmark's CD version offers both the six-minute master take and an eight-minute alternate take), "63rd Street Theme," and the title track as it is on the Sam Coslow/Arthur Johnston standard "My Old Flame," which is the album's lone ballad. Sullivan plays no less than four different instruments on this CD: trumpet, alto sax, baritone sax, and the peck horn. In fact, he solos on all four instruments on "Bluzinbee," an exuberant 19-minute jam that finds Griffin making rare appearances on the alto and baritone saxes. Griffin, of course, is best remembered for his big-toned tenor playing, and hearing him solo on alto and baritone is a pleasant surprise (much like Charlie "Bird" Parker's appearances on tenor in 1947 and 1953 or Jackie McLean's tenor playing on his 1957 session A Long Drink of the Blues). Many of Chicago's bop musicians have lamented Sullivan's decision to move to Florida and wish he had never left Chi-Town; listening to the rewarding Blue Stroll, it isn't hard to understand why they feel that way.

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