Album review

Sultan Stevenson – ‘Faithful One’

Sultan Stevenson ‘Faithful One’

(Whirlwind Recordings. Album review by Adam Sieff)

There’s a real sense of excitement surrounding the release of this debut album from the pianist Sultan Stevenson. The young Londoner has been leading his trio of double bassist Jacob Gryn and drummer Joel Waters and building a reputation with some high profile club and festival dates. He’s a Tomorrow’s Warrior (and now a T.W. Music Leader), Julian Joseph Jazz Academy alumnus, will graduate from Guildhall School of Music this summer, and was awarded a scholarship to Jazz House Kids Summer Workshop in Montclair, New Jersey at 17. Many in the jazz world expect great things from him, so, no pressure!

What he’s delivered with Faithful One will easily meet those expectations. It’s very good indeed, not just for a 22 year old, but for anyone. The album was recorded over two days in May last year by James Knight at his Knight Time Studios in Stoke Newington and funded with help from The Tottenham Grammar School Foundation and Help Musicians, a charity that has been doing exactly that since 1921.

The album is split between trio and quintet tracks that sit happily with each other. There are two guest musicians, the young trumpeter and Trinity Laban student Josh Short and the mighty tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste, an important connection to the first generation of Tomorrow’s Warriors and the best of British jazz music.

This is a generally a quiet (but not a muted) affair. At its core is a very strong trio connection with Gryn and Waters, who are supportive and never play more than is necessary, and Stevenson making his point succinctly without needing to raise his voice. His writing is a constant flow of memorable melodies and his playing suggests that whatever he has already learned from his influences and mentors has been absorbed and is now represented in very much his own style.

There is much to enjoy, Summer Was Our Holy Place is a warm sounding quintet piece with a beautiful theme and fine solos from Short and Baptiste. The explosive title track allows the rhythm section to cut loose and features another great Baptiste solo. The reverential and moving Prayer is another highlight with it’s beautifully recorded bass intro and interplay between the horns. There’s deep feeling in everything here and Stevenson’s Christian faith is reflected in the album’s title which is taken from the Bible – ‘The righteous shall live by faith’ (Romans). To Be Seen and Safe Passagewere released as singles in 2020 but have been rerecorded here and are much improved.

The last time I wrote about a debut album from Whirlwind Recordings it was for Samara Joy, and just look how well she’s doing with two Grammys already. History may well be repeating itself here.

Release date is 24 March

LINKS: Artist website.

Launch Jazz Cafe 31 March

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