[JPL] Curtis Fuller Honored

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Thu Feb 14 11:41:41 EST 2008


courant.com/entertainment/events/hc-riffs0214.artfeb14,0,5861677.story

RIFFS JAZZ NOTES
Hartt School To Honor Jazz Legend Curtis Fuller

By OWEN McNALLY
SPECIAL TO THE COURANT

February 14, 2008

Like so many other sleek, high-powered jazz musicians who rolled out of 
Detroit in the 1950s, trombonist /Curtis Fuller/ quickly made his mark 
on the Big Apple's booming scene.

Even after a long, distinguished career --- including more than 400 
recordings and fruitful associations with such jazz icons as Art Blakey, 
Jackie McLean, Benny Golson and Miles Davis --- Fuller, 73, is still 
rolling along, yet another example of those premium Motor Town talents 
built to both excel and endure. Among the cavalcade of custom-designed 
products who roared out of Detroit with Fuller in the early '50s, were 
Elvin and Thad Jones, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers, Kenny 
Burrell and Yusef Lateef, to name a few.

For service above and beyond the call of duty, the legendary 
trombonist/composer/bandleader/educator will be honored in a tribute 
concert Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Hartt School's Millard Auditorium on 
the University of Hartford campus, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

Presented by the Hartt Student Council (HSC) and Hartt's Jackie McLean 
Institute of Jazz, the homage features /the Artists Collective Youth 
Jazz Orchestra/, /Hartt Big Band /and the /Jackie McLean Institute 
Student Ensembles /under the direction of /Steve Davis/, a noted jazz 
trombonist/educator.

As a highlight of the gala, Fuller, an NEA Jazz Master, leads his 
stellar sextet featuring trumpeter /Eddie Henderson/, 
saxophonist/flutist /Rene McLean/; pianist /Alan Palmer/; bassist /Nat 
Reeves /and drummer /Joe Farnsworth/.

Always at home in the recording studio, Fuller, in one of his latest 
recording ventures, sits in as a guest on saxophonist/flutist David 
"Fathead" Newman's new release, "Diamondhead" (High Note).

Blending perfectly in ensemble passages with Newman's tenor saxophone or 
adding brassy, soloing dash on such tunes as a Cedar Walton blues, 
Fuller contributes to the disc's overall excellence. (The title track, 
"Diamondhead," celebrates Newman's 75th birthday, which is Feb. 24.)

Perhaps the finest recording tribute to the remarkable qualities of 
Fuller's early career is Mosaic Records' 1996, 3-CD retrospective, "The 
Complete Blue Note/UA Curtis Fuller Sessions." The compilation is a box 
set full of gems, with Fuller stretching out as the leader of dream team 
combos featuring such luminaries as Art Farmer, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, 
Sonny Clark, Bobby Timmons, Tommy Flanagan and Paul Chambers, among many 
others.

As Mosaic's Michael Cuscuna notes in the collection's liner notes, 
Fuller, as a young émigré in Manhattan, in merely eight months time, 
made six albums as a leader and appeared on 15 others, including a 
McLean date for Prestige Records.

"Even in those prolific times, that's pretty impressive for a newly 
arrived trombonist," Cuscuna notes.

Recording for Blue Note, then a red-hot label, and playing gigs at 
fabled clubs like Café Bohemia with such luminaries as Miles Davis in a 
sextet featuring Sonny Rollins, Fuller was right in the thick of things. 
A young rookie just up from the minors, he was batting over 300 right 
away in the Bigs, readily accepted by jazz titans --- even a notoriously 
cranky, hypercritical one like Miles --- during one of the most robust, 
exciting, creative periods in the music's history.

In an interview, Fuller gives Cuscuna a taste of what that whirlwind, 
jazz lifestyle was like when he talks about the dazzling variety of 
now-sainted performers he suddenly found himself working with in 
Manhattan's most venerated venues.

"I played a lot with Lester Young at Birdland. ...Erroll Garner was the 
pianist the first time, then Bud Powell and then Nat Pierce," Fuller 
recalls.

"Billie Holiday would come on stage and sing a few tunes with us. She 
wasn't allowed to work officially because she'd lost her cabaret card (a 
required "license" to work in the city's clubs).

"But I didn't know much about that stuff then. I was as clean as the 
Board of Health," Fuller tells Cuscuna.

Over the years, Fuller has performed on a number of landmark recordings, 
including the John Coltrane classic, "Blue Train," which has long been 
consecrated in the Blue Note canon.

In fact, as a young, once seemingly omnipresent sideman for jazz giants, 
Fuller proudly claims that he was the only soloing trombonist to have 
recorded individually with all three of an impressive trifecta 
consisting of Coltrane, Jimmy Smith and Bud Powell.

Powell, the great genius of bebop piano, perhaps made the most 
succinctly prescient remark about Fuller after hearing the then-young 
trombonist play on a Blue Note recording date.

As recounted by writer Robert Levin, a much-pleased and happily 
surprised Powell turned to Blue Note founder Alfred Lion and exclaimed 
about the then-obscure trombone wizard, "Man, that cat can blow!"

Tickets for the Fuller tribute concert: general admission, $20; 
students, $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Information: 860-768-4228. 
Proceeds from the concert will benefit HSC and Brothers of the Poor, a 
nonprofit organization supporting children in Sri Lanka orphaned by the 
2004 tsunami. There will be a silent auction a half-hour before the concert.

-- 
Dr. Jazz
Dr. Jazz Operations
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Oak Park, MI  48237
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