Great Friends is an artifact. Recorded on July 7, 1986, at Sysmo Studio in Paris, it is the only recorded output of the aggregation that included alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, Stanley Cowell at the piano, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Billy Hart. Until this reissue on the Pennsylvania indie Evidence Music, Great Friends was only available in Europe, on the French label Black & Blue. While led by the bristling tones of Fortune's alto, the recording gives equal time to each musician, allowing its titular egalitarianism to color each of the eight tracks included. Workman's bass solos on Stanley Cowell's "Equipoise" and his own "Synapse," in particular, reveal the clear lines of communication that define this recording.
Arthur Sullivan always wanted to be known more as a serious composer than one of comic opera, and his Symphony in E minor ("Irish") and his grand opera Ivanhoe, immensely popular in its own time, have been revived in recent decades. The same cannot be said of his songs, which are all but unknown except for The Lost Chord. That chestnut is not even included on this expansive two-disc survey, a highly worthwhile look into Sullivan the song composer.