Back to All Events

The Future of Jazz Piano: Sullivan Fortner

  • St. Stephen's Episcopal Church 19 South 10th Street Philadelphia, PA 19107 (map)

Sullivan Fortner's music embodies the essence of the blues and jazz as he connects music of all eras and genres through his improvisation.

About Sullivan Fortner

Lauded as one of the top jazz pianists of his generation, Sullivan Fortner is recognized for his virtuosic technique and captivating performances. He is the winner of three prestigious awards: a Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, the 2015 Cole Porter Fellowship from the American Pianists Association, and the 2016 Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists.

The Sullivan Fortner Trio has performed on many of the world’s most prestigious stages including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Discover Jazz Festival, Tri-C Jazz Festival, Jazz Standard, and the Gillmore Keyboard Festival. Fortner has been heard with other leading musicians around the world including Dianne Reeves, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, John Scofield, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Fred Hersch, Sean Jones, DeeDee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini, Peter Bernstein, Stefon Harris, Nicholas Peyton, Billy Hart, Dave Liebman, Gary Bartz, Etienne Charles, and Christian Scott.

Fortner brings the same sense of musicianship to his recordings as he does to his live performances. His first album, Aria (Impulse Records) garnered acclaim by The New York Times and Downbeat Magazine as it showcases Fortner’s mastery at both rendering well-chosen standards and composing memorable melodies. Fortner’s highly anticipated sophomore album as a solo recording artist, Moments Preserved, was released in 2018. Fortner can also be heard on the recordings of Etienne Charles’s Kaiso (2011), Donald Harrison’s Quantum Leaps (2010), and Theo Croker’s Fundementals (2007). Most recently, he has recorded with Grammy Award-winning artists Roy Hargrove and Cecile McLorin Salvant on their highly anticipated albums.

Fortner’s foray into music education has resulted in master classes at today’s most formidable music institutions, including Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NoCCA), Purdue University, Lafayette Summer Music Workshop, and Belmont University (TN).

A native of New Orleans, Fortner began playing the piano at the age of seven and was hailed a virtuoso before he was out of high school. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music.

About The Future of Jazz Piano

St. Stephen’s inaugural season explores the vanguard of jazz piano. Fred Hersch, who opens the 2018-19 season on September 28 with a benefit performance and book signing, has also curated a series of solo performances that will continue through the spring. Drawing from four decades of experience as a musician and teacher, Hersch has selected three New York-based artists that are “bright young lights of the jazz piano scene.”

Curator's Statement, Fred Hersch: From my more than 35 years teaching jazz piano at many elite conservatories to my more than 40 years living in New York City and keeping and ear to the ground, I have been aware of—and in many cases, mentored—some of the bright young lights of the jazz piano scene. My series this year shines some light on three particularly strong pianists. Playing solo is a true test of pianistic resources, imagination, and awareness of all of the many historical styles of jazz piano. And these young artists are more than up to the task....I first heard Sullivan Fortner in a master class when he was a student of Jason Moran's at the Manhattan School of Music some 10 years ago. I was immediately impressed by the sparkle and rhythmic commitment in his playing. He has come to prominence working with trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant and is on his way to a deservedly big career."