[JPL] Curtis Fuller Honored
drjazz at drjazz.com
Thu Feb 14 11:41:41 EST 2008
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
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
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
"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 Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
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