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Sullivan Fortner Serves "Beans and Cornbread" and Jon Cleary Sets Off "Dyna-Mite," in Take Five

Carol Friedman
Sullivan Fortner

Sullivan Fortner, “Beans and Cornbread”

Soulful sustenance has always been a core priority for Sullivan Fortner, whether he’s holding down the piano chair in a working band, accompanying the likes of Cécile McLorin Salvant, or leading his own agile trio. So there’s something apropos about “Beans and Cornbread,” the first single from his forthcoming second album, Moments Preserved. The tune — no relation to the jump blues recorded in 1949 by Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five — is a minor-key swinger set at a medium-up tempo. It opens with a statement by bassist Ameen Saleem, who composed the tune; then Fortner and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons kick the groove into gear.


Elsewhere on Moments Preserved, Fortner and his trio cover Earth, Wind & Fire, Duke Ellington, and even songs from Wheel of Fortune and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The underlying theme is an emotional honesty that connects Fortner to moments from his own life experience. Among his contributions is “Elegy For Clyde Kerr,” dedicated to the New Orleans trumpeter who served as one of his mentors. “Beans and Cornbread” strikes a different tone, but not an unrelated one. Moments Preserved will be available digitally on Impulse! on June 1, and in physical formats on June 9. Preorder here.

Jon Cleary, “Dyna-Mite”

Speaking of New Orleans, pianist and singer-songwriter Jon Cleary — an Englishman who long ago unlocked honorary status as a Crescent City son — has a new album coming this summer. Dyna-Mite, due out on July 13, is a rollicking party of just the sort we’ve come to expect from Cleary, who knows how to turn any groove into cause for celebration.

The title track, which also opens the album and sets the tone, features contributions from guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Jamison Ross. It’s a wryly affectionate portrait of a woman named Dinah (or some homonym thereof) who seems to be courting the narrator’s attentions. It’s a position Cleary has a lot of fun relaying. “See, my baby’s sweet,” he barks during a horn breakdown. “She’s sweet as TNT.” Dyna-Mite will be released on July 13; preorder here.

Steve Tibbetts, “Life of Joel”

The guitar is always an agent of contemplation in the hands of Steve Tibbetts, who has an exquisite, slyly idiosyncratic new ECM album titled Life Of. Most of the album’s tracks bear dedications — to loved ones, or to near-strangers he observed in his local coffee shop — and “Life of Joel” is one of these. (Who is Joel? Tibbetts doesn’t say, at least not in his album notes.) The primary instrument is a well-loved 12-string Martin D-12-20 that Tibbetts got from his father 40 years ago. He also plays piano on the album, joined at times by cellist Michelle Kinney and percussionist Marc Anderson. Every musical gesture, whether in the foreground or the background, feels carefully placed. But there’s also a sense of open possibility in this music, a sensation not unlike the quiet, contingent freedom of a wandering mind. Life Of is available now on ECM. Order here.

Jure Pukl, “Doves”

"Doves," by Jure Pukl

I’ve written before about Doubtless, the fine new album by saxophonist Jure Pukl. Initially released last year on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music, it is about to be rereleased on Whirlwind Recordings, with new packaging and wider distribution. The intuitive appeal of this album is fully apparently on a track called “Doves,” which Pukl dedicates to his mother. Opening in a balladic mode, with Pukl playing a line in seamless harmony with Melissa Aldana, his fellow tenor saxophonist and his partner by marriage, the tune gradually expands and intensifies. The rhythm team of Joe Sanders (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums) never settle into a pattern, keeping their actions responsive and alert. Order Doubtless on Bandcamp.

Daniel Carter / William Parker / Matthew Shipp, “Seraphic Light, Part II”

The 23rd Vision Festival, running this week at Roulette in Brooklyn, is full of worthy enticements, none worthier than a lifetime achievement honor for pianist Dave Burrell, who recently paid a visit to our studio. Among the other reasons is a performance on Friday by Seraphic Light, the collective made up of Daniel Carter on saxophone, trumpet and flute, William Parker on bass and Matthew Shipp on piano.

This ensemble has a searching, self-titled new album out on AUM Fidelity — a concert recording made at Tufts University last spring. The album divides into three long tracks, each one a miniature epic made without premeditation or any plan. Stick with the track above, “Seraphic Light Part 2,” and you’ll begin to understand the profound quality of listening among these musicians — the way in which each action yields not only a reaction, but a fleeting resolution. Seraphic Light performs on the Vision Festival this Friday; purchase the album here.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.