Sullivan Fortner

“Fortner’s ability to simultaneously project his own voice and reflect those of others reveals an empathy.”
– DownBeat Magazine

“His fundamentals as a player could hardly be stronger, and his instincts as a composer and bandleader are almost startlingly mature.”
– New York Times

Booking in Europe:
United World Music Management
Helen Kontos


For more than a decade, Sullivan Fortner has been stretching deep-rooted talents as a pianist, composer, band leader and uncompromising individualist. The GRAMMY Award-winning artist and educator out of New Orleans received international praise as both key player and producer for his collaborative work on The Window, alongside Cecile McLorin Salvant, and earned a 2023 GRAMMY nomination for his provocative arrangement of “Optimistic Voices/No Love Dying” from her 2022 release Ghost Song

Fortner beautifully, slowly and deliberately asks the eternal question of the essence of love — his notes dance, come to a halt and resume the twirls.” 

OffBeat Magazine 

In addition to his celebrated releases as a co-leader and collaborator, as a solo leader he has issued Aria (2015), Moments Preserved (2018) and Solo Game (2024) to effusive critical acclaim, the lattermost receiving 4-star reviews in DownBeat and France’s Telerama Magazine. “[Sullivan] is one of the best pianists in the world today and he has all of the musical attributes I love: creativity, technique always in the service of expression, joy and humor, fearlessness and pianistic mastery,” says album producer, GRAMMY-nominated artist Fred Hersch. Fortner looks forward to releasing his forthcoming trio recording Southern Nights in 2025, which features Peter Washington and Marcus Gilmore. 

He is a spiritually thematic soul, alone in the studio he plays his concerns into the music. What we hear is a musician seeking safety in the studio, using every tool nearby to create a forcefield protecting him from a threatening environment and in this chamber, we hear a world emerge.” 

— Jason Moran 

Winner of the 2024 DownBeat Critics Poll for Rising Star Jazz Group: Sullivan Fortner Trio, the prolific artist soon earned the Western Jazz Presenters grant, empowering him to lead his trio — which features Tyrone Allen and Kayvon Gordon — on a coastal tour of the U.S. through Albuquerque, New Mexico, Portland, Oregon and Oakland and Monterey, California. Over the past decade, he has enjoyed creative associations with such diverse voices as Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Diane Reeves, Etienne Charles and John Scofield; his frequent and longtime collaborators have included Ambrose Akinmusire, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stefon Harris, Kassa Overall, Tivon Pennicott, Peter Bernstein, Nicholas Payton, Billy Hart, Gary Bartz, Chief Adjuah, Fred Hersch and the late Roy Hargrove. Recent collaborations include GRAMMY-nominated releases Dear Love (Empress Legacy) and Generations from leaders Jazzmeia Horn and The Baylor Project, respectively. 

His fundamentals as a player could hardly be stronger, and his instincts as a composer and bandleader are almost startlingly mature.” 

The New York Times 

Playing solo or leading an orchestra, Fortner engages harmony and rhythmic ideas through curiosity and clarity. Within phrases, he finds universes, and listeners often hear how he’s moved by each note he explores. Coming up in New Orleans, Fortner began playing piano at age 7, following a storied lineage of improvisers, masters of time and every iteration of the blues. He earned his Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory and Master of Music in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music (MSM). A champion of mentorship, Fortner has offered masterclasses at MSM, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Purdue University, Lafayette Summer Music Workshop, Belmont University and Oberlin Conservatory where he held a faculty position. In spring 2023, he again returned to his undergraduate alma mater as visiting professor of jazz piano. 

Fortner [displays] an ease of expression that stems from a longtime commitment to the music.”  


A highly-sought improviser, Fortner has performed across the country and throughout the world at such cultural institutions as Snug Harbor, New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, Sweet Lorraine’s and The Jazz Playhouse in New Orleans, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz Standard and Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. He’s appeared at celebrated festivals, including Newport, Monterey, Discover, Tri-C and Gillmore Keyboard, among others. In 2019, Fortner brought his band to the historic Village Vanguard for a week-long engagement he would reprise in 2020 as a virtual performance during lockdown. His notable studio contributions include work on Etienne Charles’s Kaiso (Culture Shock, 2011), Donald Harrison’s Quantum Leap (FOMP, 2010), and Theo Croker’s The Fundamentals (Left Sided Music, 2007). 

Pulling distinct elements from different eras, Fortner’s artistry preserves the tradition and evolves the sound. He seeks connections among different musical styles that are at once deeply soulful and wildly inventive. Both his works and his insights have been featured in culture drivers from The New York Times to The Root. Further accolades include the 2015 Cole Porter Fellowship awarded by the American Pianists Association, Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, the 2016 Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists and, in 2020, the prestigious Shifting Foundation Grant for artistic career development. 

Sullivan Fortner Trio

July 20, 2019 – July 21, 2019 Cola Jazz Camp
Columbia, SC, USA
July 28, 2019 Woods Hole Jazz (Solo Piano)
Falmouth, MA, USA
September 19, 2019 Temple University
Philadelphia, PA, USA
September 22, 2019 – September 23, 2019 Boise Jazz Society
Boise , ID, USA
October 1, 2019 Exuberance
Philadelphia, PA, USA
October 3, 2019 – October 6, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 26, 2019 Clermont-Ferrand
Clarmont-Ferrand, France
November 18, 2019 – November 19, 2019 Paris Philharmonie
Paris, France
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Residency
Umbria, Italy

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