Joe Sullivan – Whiskey Jack Waltz – Perry Lake Records PLR0003, 65:50 ***:
(Joe Sullivan – trumpet/ Flugelhorn; Lorne Lofsky – guitar; André White – piano; Dave Laing – drums; Alec Walkington – bass)
Canada is a vast country that produces any number of acclaimed musicians, most of whom originate from the major population centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. From time to time there are outliers such as Celine Dionne who is from the tiny Quebec community of Charlemagne, and Shania Twain who grew up in the small Northern Ontario mining town of Timmins. Joe Sullivan (not the same person as the 1930s/40s stride jazz pianist) is also from Timmins and a trumpeter of some distinction but without the name recognition or cachet of Shania Twain.
After studying and graduating from both the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music, Sullivan relocated to Montreal where he began to establish himself as a jazz musician with the Vic Vogel Big Band as well as his own large band and other smaller groups.
Surrounding himself with a number of Montreal-based musicians, as well as former Oscar Peterson guitarist Lorne Lofsky from Toronto, the band tackles nine Sullivan originals which stretch the talents of the group. Categorizing the music is sometimes a difficult task and in this case there seems to be a variety of influences at work: straight-ahead jazz, fusion, and some hints of post-bop. In addition to Sullivan, the other predominant voice on the session is guitarist Lorne Lofsky who adds his impeccable touch throughout. “Khivan Adventure” starts out with a Chuck Mangione feel and the theme is then picked up by Lofsky who offers a long interlude of single-note lines, with Sullivan backing into the frame with some worthy phrasing. There are two ballads presented on the album, “Lonely Roads” and “A Lullaby” and in the case of the former the tune is done in a tense reading with some oblique note configurations by all the participants.On the latter, it is a more open tune with a long bass intro from Alec Walkington supported by Lofsky’s guitar, with Sullivan eventually chiming in. The group does not neglect the up-tempo numbers and there are two among others that stand out. Firstly, “Le Bash” which has a 3/4 time signature, but a waltz is a long way from the rendition offered which bursts along. Better yet is “ The Gloves Are Off” which is perfectly epitomized by the title, as it has all the ingredients for a burner. Sullivan leads the way with some straight-ahead playing, then the pianist André White makes the most of his solo space since on most pieces he has been limited to background comping.
Although the band does not set a new standard for originality, it knows what needs to be done, and delivers a crisp approach to the material.
TrackList: Khivan Adventure; Lonely Roads; Get Lost; A Lullaby; Le Bash; Stealth; Whiskey Jack Waltz; The Gloves Are Off; The Good Doctor