Jazz Red Rodney & Ira Sullivan ''Spirit Within.'' (Elektra/Musician E-1-60020.) Personnel: Rodney, flugelhorn and trumpet; Sullivan, flugelhorn, alto flute, soprano saxophone; Garry Dial, piano; Steve Bagby, drums; Jay Anderson, bass.
Rodney and Sullivan, whose names have been musically associated off and on since l955, have been playing together steadily for the past year and a half. This album is a statement of the new musical direction they've been working on. Both men lived through the bop era, but instead of jumping on the bop revival bandwagon, they decoded to explore more modern forms. What has resulted resembles what is now called ''acoustic fusion,'' exemplified by the group Steps Ahead. The music incorporates modern harmonic and melodic approaches and ventures into some Latin/rock rhythms, but avoids the electronic instruments usually associated with fusion. Rodney and Sullivan offer the unusual combination of two flugelhorns, with the added colors of Sullivan's flute and soprano saxophone. The result is satisfying, both compositionally (most of the tunes are by pianist Garry Dial) and improvisationally. Rodney's solid, steady sound contrasts nicely with Sullivan's free-wheeling, swirling approach. Says Rodney in the liner notes, ''I guess if we were a comedy team, I'd be the straight man.''