The lopsided stereotype of pianist Joe Sullivan is that of a hard-drinking barrelhouse man and player, attacking the keyboard with great power until he day he could do it no more. But that’s only a small snapshot: if you’ve seen Sullivan, somewhat nervously chatting with Ralph Gleason on JAZZ CASUAL, you see a gentle, sensitive man: underneath the many versions of LITTLE ROCK GETAWAY is the humble romantic, tenderly exploring A ROOM WITH A VIEW or FOREVERMORE.
Here is something rare and precious: Joe’s solo improvisation, thirty minutes long, for the soundtrack of a documentary film about blind children. I don’t know more than this, except it’s aurally clear that the film’s producers did not or could not pay royalties, so they asked Joe to keep far away from copyrighted compositions, his as well as others. Did he watch the screen while playing? I don’t know. This seems to have been one of his last recorded adventures. The tape from which this is taken is third or fourth-generation, so you will hear the high-end distortion characteristic of decaying acetate tape. Sorry!
But any auditory disturbance fades away in the ear and heart as one follows Joe through his — to me — thrilling meanderings:
This is in honor of my great friend, far-away teacher and benefactor John L. Fell.
May your happiness increase!