Musician Theo Saunders never fails to amaze and to satisfy his listeners with his pianism.  His virtuosity at the keyboard, his creative programming and selection of players usually results in a superb evening of entertainment.” - Bob Agnew

— LA Jazz Scene

...the real solid values of Saunders' writing, along with his playing, constitute the album's chief virtue.  ” - Review of first album, "Sueblue"

— Downbeat

A rhythm team composed of Ted Saunders on piano...provided blistering support on the up-tempos, with exemplary solos.” - Leonard Feather

— Los Angeles Times

Pianist Saunders' powers of interpretation and invention are forces to be reckoned with; on an average night he's provocative, on a good night he's mind-bending.” - Joseph Woodard

— Los Angeles Times

Sonny Fortune February 21, 2016 by Doug Ramsey — Leave a Comment At the Portland Jazz Festival, scheduling is tight and overlapping. Sullivan Fortner at Classic Pianos (see the previous post) opened the festival simultaneously with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at the Newmark Theatre and alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune at Jimmy Mak’s club. Fortune, 75, has lost none of the force that he took from Philadelphia to New York when he joined drummer Elvin Jones in 1967. Opening his late set at Mak’s he launched into Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” with volume and intensity that surprised a man at a ringside table into yelling, “Whoa.” Whoaing was the last thing on Fortune’s mind. For the rest of the evening, he poured energy into every note, abetted by a rhythm section locked onto his wavelength. Following Fortune’s “Footprints” explosion, pianist Theo Saunders eased off before invigorating his solo in a series of keyboard [urries and parallel chords. In Fortune’s “Waynge,” dedicated to Shorter, he played a series of repetitions that amounted to a rhythmic composition within a composition. Tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence, who had introduced the band, sat in on the tune for a busy solo. Following John Coltrane’s death, Lawrence worked with Coltrane’s pianist McCoy Tyner. He was to be featured later in the festival in a concert dedicated to Coltrane. Fortune ]lled the room with his cavernous flute sound in his “Awakening,” opening it unaccompanied and exploring harmonic relationships. After the rhythm section joined him, he played a long solo that worked into another affair with rhythmic displacement. Saunders’ solo developed a pattern that seemed to draw on “A Love Supreme.” Franklin made attractive use of sliding notes in his solo. The ballad highlight of the set was “A Tribute to Billie Holiday,” a Fortune composition with intriguing harmonies of which Saunders and Franklin took advantage. Throughout the set, bassist Henry Franklin, a contemporary of Fortune, frequently smiled at Saunders in reaction to a felicitous phrase or chord change. The rhythm section listened keenly to one another. Drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith—at 55 the youngster in the quartet—has been valuable over the years to Art Farmer, Dave Holland, Steve Coleman and Archie Shepp, among dozens of others. A sympathetic accompanist and an imaginative improviser, he was fast and resourceful in a solo on “Caravan” that to great effect incorporated brushes, then mallets. In Fortune’s solo on the Juan Tizol piece, he vamped at length with the rhythm section before arriving at a paraphrase of parts of the melody, vamped again and busied himself with riffing whose resemblance to “Flight of the Bumblebee” may have been a coincidence. Amused, Franklin bestowed beatific smiles on the saxophonist, who didn’t notice. Fortune’s solo went on for chorus after chorus. When he finally wrapped it up and ended the tune, the audience applauded, cheered and rose to its feet for an ovation. Fortune bowed and smiled vaguely, as if he knew something they didn’t.  ” - Doug Ramsey

— Arts Journal Blog

Live review: The Gathering at the Mayme Clayton Museum   .....with a skull cap covering his gray hair, Theo Saunders displayed an ideal of how to play jazz on the free side. His complex chordings laid out a posh rug that could support the whole ensemble; his solos told vivid stories; when another soloist grabbed his attention, he answered with wit and spark.  Saunders has played with a boggling list of major names -- locally he"s often up there with Azar lawrence and Henry Franklin __ so the Gathering hookup, as Sharps (Jesse) gratefully acknowledged, is a natural.” - Greg Burk

Words About Music

Saunders provides shimmering backdrop and some sparkling lead efforts of his own. Saunders excites you with deliberate thematic development which builds to climatic resolution.”

— The Portland Journal

Theo Saunders has a talent for constructing elegant solos in linear melodies melt seamlessly into rich, two-handed chords.” - Alexander Gelfand

— Jazz

Pianist Theo Saunders plays laudably in both jazz and Afro-cuban styles and can mix them nicely.” - Harvey Pekar

— Jazz

Saunders plays with such unobstructed passion and pulse that he seems to become the blood pumping through this ensemble"s veins.”

— Cadence Magazine

But the high point for us is Theo Saunders again, fronting his own sextet. He's collected some exceptional players: tenor Chuck Manning and alto Zane Musa, his longtime trombonist David Dahlsten, and the powerful team of bassist Jeffrey Littleton and drummer Tony Austin.  Saunders is an underrated composer; his pieces can be difficult, if beautiful, and are rhythmically complex, and his solos are always surprising.  For some reason, we really dig his unpredictably right-on-the-money comping best of all.......this just might be the recession busting gig of the week.” - Brick Wahl

— LA Weekly