CD Review of Travis Sullivan’s New Directions 

by Russ Nolan




Although New Directions was released two years ago, it is certainly worth another listen—or several.

One value that NYC Alto Saxophonist/Composer/Arranger Travis Sullivan and I share as composers is to craft a set of music diverse enough to give the listener a full spectrum of emotions, moods, tempos, keys, time feels, and, figuratively speaking, ‘take them around the world’. When all is said and done, the only thing that matters is how the music makes the listener feel. (visit my series on this subject here).

From his thoughtful multi-metered Autumn in New Hampshire to the high-flying Tuneology transitioning to the funky Hidden Agenda and then bringing it down to a beautiful treatment of the classic Spring is Here, even the most discerning listener will be satisfied.

My only criticism—despite the 55-minute length of the recording—is that it is two tunes too many. I was more than satisfied after eight and it was ‘TMI’ to listen to all ten tracks in one sitting.  Although each tune is winner, tracks 7 and 8 are both in 3/4 and relatively the same tempo. One could be saved for the next record. Given our culture of short attention spans, I thought the pacing of the set took too long to get going. As wonderful as the first two tunes are, I would have placed them in the middle and opened up with the more aggressive title track followed by Tuneology.

That being said, the musicianship of the quartet is superb. Sullivan’s chops and robust, warm sound are comparable with any saxophonist on the scene, yet he does not sacrifice musicality just to make this point. He phrases like his compositions, develops his ideas patiently, and plays from the heart.

Bassist Marco Panascia’s time and groove is infallible, providing the foundation for the other three to venture into the great unknown without fear of total collapse.

Each one of Mike Eckroth’s solos is a gem and worthy of transcription. Add this to his tasteful comping, it’s no wonder why he is in high demand. He’s a ‘Pianist’s Pianist’.

Finally, I regard Brian Fishler as one of the most versatile drummers today. There are many world-class drummers who are know for a specific style or genre, but few are excellent at many. Having tenure in my current group, Brian always delivers a wonderful blend of excitement, surprise, and musical support no matter what we throw at him.


Travis Sullivan’s ‘Bjorkestra’

Bjorkestra to perform at Blue Note Jazz Festival

Travis will continue to display his composing/arranging talents this Sunday, June 9, 2013, at 8PM during the Blue Note Jazz Festival, Highline Ballroom, 431 W. 16th St., New York, NY, as he leads his big band ‘The Bjorkestra’, showcasing the compositions of pop icon Bjork. Details and tickets can be found at


Russ Nolan Jazz Blog

Travis Sullivan Headshot

Travis Sullivan

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