It has been about two years since I last touched base with famed composer and pianist Paul Sullivan, so when I discovered that he was returning to Jewett Auditorium for a performance on Sunday, Nov. 17, I just had to reconnect with him to find out what’s been happening in his life lately. Those of you unfamiliar with this gentle man should know that he’s worked with Paul Winter’s Consort and has 18 albums — which have sold more than 300,000 copies — three of which have won Indie Awards; and he’s also received a Grammy award for his work on Paul Winter Consort’s “Silver Solstice” CD. Sullivan has also performed with several symphony orchestras under the direction of Eugene Ormandy (the Philadelphia Orchestra) and the Boston Pops (under both Arthur Fiedler and Keith Lockhart). He’s played several prestigious jazz clubs in New York including Sweet Basil, The Village Vanguard and Bradley’s, and has played with such masters as Benny Goodman and Tommy Flanagan. Needless to say, he’s had an amazing musical career. From his home in the Blue Hill, Maine area, Sullivan called early one morning and I began this way:

Q: I know you have performed at Jewett Hall before, right?
Sullivan: Yes, I think the last time was two years ago.

Q: I think you’re right. I try to cover as many shows there as I can — I really like that venue.
Sullivan: I do, too. I’m very glad to be going back there and I think it’s a real cultural oasis.

Q: And we’re slowly losing those.
Sullivan: Yes, we are and nobody’s more aware of it as I.

Q: So, what’s new on your front? I believe the last time we chatted your musical (“Songs of The Last Ferryman”) was being released on CD.
Sullivan: Oh, that’s right — good notes there. Well, that’s as far as we went and I think it’s as far as it’s going to go, although I toy with the idea of writing another musical. So that one is laying fallow but I might do another one.

Q: Well, back to your show at Jewett — what can folks expect?
Sullivan: I will be playing the piano — I love that as much as ever and am eager to be playing for them.

Q: Have you been writing any new compositions on the piano?
Sullivan: Well, let me see. I did one this summer, but it was not a solo-piano thing; it was a flute piece that I wrote for a music festival. As far as solo-piano things go, when you improvise on songs they’re sort of new each time, but the simple answer is: No, I don’t have any brand new piano pieces to offer; I have retakes on former pieces and I’ll be playing some jazz standards for the good folks at Jewett and, believe me, they truly are different each time — whether I’d like them to be or not. And the older you get, the more different things become each time (laughter).

Q: (Chuckle) Sometimes intentional, sometimes not…
Sullivan: Exactly! However, the other side of that is, the older my audiences get, the newer each thing seems to them each time, too, so it all works out (laughter). But what actually can be said about an upcoming gig at Jewett? I’m looking forward to it. Like you, I really like Jewett and the people I’ve met there and the volunteers, and I say (it’s) an oasis — that’s a little dramatic — (but) it’s not as though you can’t find a concert to go to on the coast of Maine.

Q: Well, that segues into my traditional closing question — even though you may have answered it earlier. Is there anything, Paul, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article concerning your show in Augusta on the 17th?
Sullivan: Ah, well, you could just say that I am truly and really looking forward to it. I have had wonderful times (there) and I know that this is going to be another good one. In a way, I feel like I’m going to be coming back to play for a bunch of old friends. And as potentially insincere as that might sound, I know that you know me well enough to know that I really do mean that. …

Q: That’s true, for sure.
Sullivan: … It’s a gig that I’m just looking forward to. It’s going to be comfortable, it’s going to be relaxed, I’m going to feel at home and that makes me do my best.

Lucky Clark has spent 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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