Ira Sullivan

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Ira Sullivan
Rich Matteson, Red Rodney, and Ira Sullivan, Village Jazz Lounge, Walt Disney World
Rich Matteson, Red Rodney, and Ira Sullivan, Village Jazz Lounge, Walt Disney World
Background information
Born(1931-05-01)May 1, 1931
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedSeptember 21, 2020(2020-09-21) (aged 89)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, saxophone

Ira Sullivan (May 1, 1931 – September 21, 2020)[1] was an American jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist, flautist, saxophonist, and composer born in Washington, D.C., United States. An active musician since the 1950s, he often worked with Red Rodney and Lin Halliday.[2]


Sullivan was born on May 1, 1931, in Washington, D.C., United States.[3] His father taught him to play the trumpet beginning at age 312, and his mother taught him saxophone. He played in 1950s Chicago with such musicians as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Wardell Gray and Roy Eldridge, gaining a reputation as a fearsome bebop soloist. After playing briefly with Art Blakey in 1956, and mastering alto and baritone saxophone, Sullivan moved south to Florida and out of the spotlight in the early 1960s.[3]

His reluctance to travel limited his opportunities to play with musicians of the first rank, but Sullivan continued to play in the Miami area, often in schools and churches. Contact with local younger players, such as Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny led to teaching and to a broadening of his own musical roots to include the stylings of John Coltrane's jazz rock.[3]

With the addition of flute and soprano saxophone to his performing range, Sullivan moved to New York, and in 1980 formed a quintet with bop trumpeter Red Rodney. Sullivan and Rodney worked on new material and fostered young talent.[3] Sullivan and his longtime friend and collaborator Stu Katz, jazz pianist and vibraphonist, co-led a multi-night performance with Katz at Joe Segal's The Jazz Showcase in Chicago. A live recording of some of those performances, A Family Affair: Live At Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, was released in 2011. Sullivan taught at the Young Musicians Camp each summer at the University of Miami.[citation needed]

Ira Sullivan died on September 21, 2020, of metastatic pancreatic cancer in his Miami home at age 89.[1]

Ira Sullivan's musical signature was "Amazing Grace", the tune with which he closed every performance for decades. In the week following Sullivan's death, the jazz community produced a Love Letter to Ira Sullivan, a compilation of more than forty performances of "Amazing Grace".[4]

Sullivan in Miami, Florida, in 2011


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Art Blakey

With Frank Catalano

  • Cut It Out (Delmark, 1997)

With Red Garland

With Lin Halliday

With Eddie Harris

With Philly Joe Jones

With Roland Kirk

With Roberto Magris

  • Sun Stone - Roberto Magris Sextet feat. Ira Sullivan (JMood, 2019)

With J. R. Monterose

With Rita Reys

With Red Rodney

With Billy Taylor

  • The Billy Taylor Trio Introduces Ira Sullivan (ABC-Paramount, 1956)

With Brad Goode


  1. ^ a b Reich, Howard (September 23, 2020). "Chicago jazz great Ira Sullivan dies at 89". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  2. ^ "Ira Sullivan | Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2414. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]