Thursday, October 11, 2012

Curtis Fuller: Down Home

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Down Home

Once upon a time, when a favorite artist passed away, all fans had to fall back on were the recordings made during that individual’s career. That was a real loss when the medium was vinyl discs, because they wore out and we were left with nothing. CDs changed that, because they last a lifetime. 

Better still is when the artists have a long life and keep producing their music. Such is the case with trombonist Chris Fuller; he’s still active and swinging at age 78. So, we have access both to the great stuff he has done in the past, and the great stuff he still does today.

Fuller, born in Detroit, began to play the baritone horn in high school; he switched to trombone when he was 16. The local jazz scene at the time included Thad Jones, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, Pepper Adams, Paul Chamber and many others who went on to become name artists. In 1953, Fuller served a two-year stint in the Army; after his release, he joined Yusef Lateef’s Quintet. That group visited New York City while on tour, and Fuller took full advantage. During his first eight months in the Big Apple, he released six albums as a leader and participated in 15 others: pretty impressive for a newcomer! 

Lest you have any lingering doubts about where Fuller stands with his fellow musicians, during his career he has worked with groups led by Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter and many others. 

Down Home features Fuller’s sextet: Keith Oxman on tenor sax, Al Hood on trumpet and flugelhorn, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass, and Todd Reid on drums. This is straight-ahead jazz at its best; all but one of the tunes (“Then I’ll Be Tired of You”) are original charts by Fuller, Stephens and Oxman. Fuller, still capable of swinging with the best, solos on seven of these 10 tracks; he still showcases his unique tone and innovative lines. 

Thanks, Curtis, for still being around!

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