Sullivan Fortner, It's a Breeze & Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall Saturday at 4:00pm; Aleathea's, Sunday

The Story

Pianist-composer Sullivan Fortner is a shining light on the current jazz scene. A regular pianist in trumpeter Roy Hargrove's band from 2010 to 2017, the New Orleans native has released two acclaimed albums on Impulse! Records — 2015’s Aria and 2018’s Moments Preserved. He has also played sideman to trumpeters Theo Crocker and Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonists Donald Harrison and Justin Robinson while also appearing on two high-profile recordings in 2018 — Paul Simon’s In the Blue Light and Cécile McLorin Savant’s Grammy-nominated duets album, The Window. Growing up in New Orleans, where his mother was choir director of a baptist church, Fortner began playing the organ there at the age of seven. A product of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), he earned a bachelor's degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music. In 2015, he won the American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz. “Jazz is a paradox,” said Fortner. “It’s inclusive and noninclusive at the same time. It’s ugly and it’s beautiful. It’s raw and it’s refined.”

The Sound

Lauded for his virtuoso technique and free-spirited improvisations, Fortner’s approach is abundantly swinging and deeply connected to the blues. Expect him to breathe new life into standards like “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “Just In Time,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You” and “Ask Me Now” while performing originals from Moments Preserved, including “Elegy for Clyde Kerr Jr.,” “New Port” and “Barbara’s Strut.”

Michael Kline