Sullivan Fortner

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Sullivan Fortner
Born1986 (age 31–32)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active2000s–present
Associated actsRoy Hargrove

Sullivan Joseph Fortner (born 1986) is an American jazz pianist. He was the regular pianist in trumpeter Roy Hargrove's band from 2010 to 2017, and has released two albums on Impulse! Records.

Early life[edit]

Fortner was born and grew up in New Orleans.[1][2] He started playing the piano from the age of four.[1] He was inspired to play by seeing a woman playing the organ in a local church.[2] His mother was the choir director of a baptist church; he began playing the organ there at the age of seven.[3] For a time, he relied on his perfect pitch to learn and play music; this had to change when he successfully auditioned for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.[3] Fortner went on to obtain a bachelor's degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music.[2][4]

Later life and career[edit]

In 2009, Fortner was part of vibraphonist Stefon Harris' band,[5] including for a tour of Europe.[3] Fortner was pianist in trumpeter Roy Hargrove's quintet from 2010 to 2017.[3][6] Fortner became strongly influenced by fellow pianist Barry Harris from 2011, when he realised that his knowledge of the music was too shallow.[3] Fortner recorded with the Hargrove band's saxophonist, Justin Robinson, in 2013.[7] In 2015, Fortner was the winner of the American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz, a prize that consists of "$50,000, the opportunity to record for Mack Avenue Records, and two years of professional career services and development".[8]

In early 2015, Fortner's quartet contained saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, bassist Ameen Saleem and drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons.[6] Fortner's first release as leader was Aria, for Impulse! Records.[9] The next, Moments Preserved, was mainly a trio album, with Saleem and Clemons, but Hargrove also played on three of the tracks.[3] Fortner played on some of the tracks that formed Paul Simon's album In the Blue Light.[3][10]


An asterisk (*) indicates the year the album was released.

As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel
2015* Aria Impulse! Quartet, with Tivon Pennicott (tenor sax, soprano sax), Aidan Carroll (bass), Joe Dyson Jr. (drums)
2018* Moments Preserved Impulse! Most tracks trio, with Ameen Saleem (bass), Jeremy "Bean" Clemons (drums); three tracks quartet, with Roy Hargrove added

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
2007* Theo Croker The Fundamentals Left Sided Music
2009* Clyde Kerr Jr. This Is Now
2010* Donald Harrison Quantum Leaps Fomp
2011* Etienne Charles Kaiso Culture Shock
2011 Lauren Henderson Lauren Henderson
2011* Arnold Lee Arnold Lee Quartet Leeandthem
2011 Theo Croker Afro Physicist OKeh/DDB
2012* Truan Savage Five Colors
2013 Justin Robinson Alana's Fantasy Criss Cross Jazz
2015* Paul Jones Short History Blu Jazz
2017* Guilhem Flouzat A Thing Called Joe Sunnyside
2018* Paul Simon In the Blue Light Legacy
2018* Cécile McLorin Salvant The Window Mack Avenue


  1. ^ a b "Get to Know Jazz Fellowship Awards Finalist Sullivan Fortner". (October 7, 2014) American Pianists Association.
  2. ^ a b c "Sullivan Fortner". (September 22, 2013) Smalls Live.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Panken, Ted (September 2018). "Baptized in Jazz". DownBeat. pp. 45–47.
  4. ^ Burton, Tonya (October 7, 2014) "Society Column: Jazz Pianists Impress APA Sponsors at Ozdemir Estate". Current in Carmel.
  5. ^ Ratliff, Ben (October 23, 2009) "Jazz and Funk Roots, Joyfully Unearthed". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b West, Michael J. (January 25, 2015) Pianist Sullivan Fortner and Ensemble at Kennedy Center". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ Ross, John (October 2014) "Justin Robinson – The Power of Dedication". Down Beat. p. 21.
  8. ^ Chinen, Nate (March 29, 2015) "Sullivan Fortner Wins 2015 Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Hale, James (January 2016) "Sullivan Fortner – Aria". DownBeat. p. 60.
  10. ^ "Paul Simon to Release New Album – In the Blue Light – on September 7 Coinciding with Final Leg of Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour". AllAboutJazz. July 17, 2018.