Sonny Rollins once called himself a ?survivor of jazz?s illustrious period.? Such is the case with Ira Sullivan and Stu Katz, who are both forged in the style of bebop?s halcyon days. Unlike young lions, who transcribe the records of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, Sullivan and Katz rubbed elbows with Jackie McLean, Milt Jackson, Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, and Red Rodney. The richness of their bebop language is evidence of these associations. Sullivan and Katz?s recent release, A Family Affair: Live at Joe Segal?s Jazz Showcase, is a celebration, not only of Sullivan and Katz, but of Joe Segal?s legendary jam sessions at Roosevelt College from 1946 to 1956. These sessions featured such luminaries as Lester Young, Gene Ammons, Sonny Rollins, Lennie Tristano, and Max Roach, while Chicago?s Jazz Showcase is cited as a continuation of the work at Roosevelt College.
Ira Sullivan is best known for his long association with Red Rodney, and Stu Katz is simply one of the most overlooked vibraphonists in jazz. Both musicians serve as perfect foils for this swinging live recording. This delightful CD mainly features warhorse standards which Sullivan and Katz perform with effortless swing and melodicism. Although Sullivan is mainly featured on saxophone (soprano, alto, and tenor), he highlights his celebrated multi-instrumental skills with some excellent trumpet work on Benny Golson?s ?Stablemates.? Sullivan?s alto solo on ?Pennies From Heaven? is particularly notable and slightly reminiscent of Sonny Stitt, especially in how he balances an encyclopedic bebop vocabulary with an attractive tone and buoyant swing. Katz, who serves double duty on vibraphone and piano, plays wonderfully throughout, especially with his inventive vibes solos on the Sullivan original ?Blues Two Views? and ?Take the ?A? Train.?
Throughout this live date, Sullivan and Katz are supported by the nimble rhythm section of Dan Trudell on piano, Dennis Carroll on bass, and George Fludas on drums. Particularly notable moments include Trudell?s inventive solo on Sullivan?s ?Gee, Matthew? (based on the chord changes of ?Body and Soul?), as well as Carroll?s rock solid accompaniment on ?Lullaby of the Leaves,? and Fludas?s swinging drum work on ?Scrapple from the Apple.? Adding to the jazz party atmosphere, Sullivan and Katz invite a few guests onto the stage, including Katz?s son Steve on bass for ?Take the ?A? Train? and smoky vocals by Lucia Newell on ?Yesterdays.? Sullivan concludes with a tasteful tenor romp on the gospel tune ?What a Friend We Have in Jesus,? providing a perfect bookend for this highly recommended release.