Ira Sullivan

Horizons/The Little Giant

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Praiseworthy as this double CD is for beefing up the skimpy number of releases available from these two artists, the fact remains that the performances resurrected here are unremarkable. An accomplished saxophonist and trumpet player, Ira Sullivan has generally shunned the spotlight. He is probably best known for his association with trumpeter Red Rodney. Luis Gasca, a journeyman trumpet player who has paid dues with Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Mongo Santamaria, may be most familiar to listeners who've seen his name in the credits of various Santana albums. Ranging from perfunctory bop to tepid free jazz, Sullivan's Horizons from 1967 seldom gels into cohesive performances. The best tracks -- fortunately they are the longer ones -- are in a modal hard bop style. The title track, for instance, resembles one of Wayne Shorter's contributions to the Jazz Messengers. "Norwegian Wood" and Sullivan's own "Nineveh" feature the leader on soprano, working terrain similar to John Coltrane's extended interpolations of "My Favorite Things" and "Chim Chim Cheree." The Beatles' number, however, would have benefited from standard piano in place of the mechanical clunking of Dolphe Castellano's electric harpsichord. The high points of Gasca's The Little Giant from 1969 are Joe Henderson's two tenor solos -- not enough to merit a recommendation, except to Henderson's most obsessive fans. The dominant sounds are physical, Latin vamps that offer little drama or dynamics. Gasca often projects as if he were still in the Kenton band at full throttle, although a trio of inconsequential ballad features provide an outlet for his more reflective side. Despite Henderson's strong solo, the CD's centerpiece, Mongo Santamaria's "Afro-Blue," never manages to catch fire.

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