Aidan Carroll Downbeat Magazine Review
Aidan Carroll's Original Vision
Reviewed in Downbeat Magazine!
If there’s one thing besides his superb piano artistry that New Orleans native Sullivan Fortner captures on his debut release Aria, it’s his deep rapport with bassist Aidan Carroll and drummer Joe Dyson, Jr. The role of tenor and soprano saxophonist Tivon Pennicott is also central, though three numbers omit the horn and one is solo piano (“For All We Know”, a yearning, intricately voice-led odyssey). In the trio pieces—Fred Rodgers’ “You Are Special”, Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” and Duke Jordan’s “You Know I Care”—Fortner reveals a mastery of tradition with Carroll and Dyson while striving for a personal language, rhythmically adventurous and harmonically astute.
The Fortner-Carroll-Dyson trinity appears again on Carroll’s debut, Original Vision, though just on four tracks (three with tenor saxophonist John Ellis). The vibe is quasi-electric; Carroll plays upright but is credited on keyboards, electric bass, voice and percussion as well. The unaccompanied solo track.
“Intro: Reflections” shows what he can do with all of it. Fortner plays piano and Rhodes, even Hammond B-3 organ on the moody, melodic neo-soul highlight “Sundays”, sung beautifully by Chris Turner. Carroll’s writing is ambitious and eclectic. There’s as much creativity in his reinvention of Billy Strayhorn’s “Day Dream”, the one non-original, a bass-piano duet with Fortner. “Shamanistic” is pulsing acoustic jazz with the subtlest sheen of keyboards (likely Carroll’s) creeping in toward the end. “For Now” begins deceptively with involved hits and a synth-laced melody (Carroll again) but then shifts to the deepest- grooving midtempo swing and stays there. “Sull’s Song” is restrained and almost folk-rockish; Fortner tailors his playing to the song but bursts forth with flourishes in just the right spots.
Fortner’s writing, like Carroll’s, is strong and forward-thinking: 5 of the 10 compositions on Aria are his own, beginning with the jumpy and involved title track, an effective soprano showcase for Pennicott. The soprano returns on “Passepied”, a relaxed, flowing odd-meter invention with a Latin tinge and a reference to “Woody’n You” changes. “Ballade” has an accessible, lyrical feel and a striking deceptive cadence at the end while “Parade” stirs the waters with angular, swinging counterpoint and “Finale” closes on a brisk Chick Corea-esque note, with Pennicott in fine tenor form. There’s also a daring adaptation of Monk’s “I Mean You”, with excellent Pennicott again and an adroit quote of “Four In One” from Fortner. It’s chops and creativity on that level that distinguishes Fortner as one of our finest young pianists.