Born: May 1, 1931 Primary Instrument: Reeds
Sullivan is that rare thing, a true multi-instrumentalist, capable of improvising statements of worth on all his instruments. He was taught trumpet by his father, saxophone by his mother and played both in 50s Chicago with such seminal figures as Charlie Bird Parker, Lester Young, Wardell Gray and Roy Eldridge, garnering a reputation as a fearsome bebop soloist. After playing briefly with Art Blakey (1956), and mastering alto and baritone saxophone, Sullivan moved south to Florida and out of the spotlight in the early 60s. His reluctance to travel limited his opportunities to play with musicians of the first rank, but Sullivan continued to play in the Miami area, often in schools and churches. Contact with local younger players, notably Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny led to teaching and to a broadening of his own musical roots to include the lessons of John Coltrane's music and elements of jazz rock. With the addition of flute and soprano saxophone to his armoury, Sullivan moved to New York and in 1980 formed a quintet with legendary bop trumpeter Red Rodney. Resisting the temptation to follow current trends and play the music of their youth, Sullivan and Rodney worked on new material and fostered young talent to produce some fresh and stimulating music.