Curtis Fuller – Quotes & Reviews


Curtis Fuller – Down Home

Curtis Fuller has been on the jazz scene since the mid-1950s, and has been recognized for most of that time as one of the premier trombonists in jazz. Down Home (Capri – 74116) is another in a series of superb albums that he has done for the Capri label. He is joined by Keith Oxman on tenor sax, Al Hood on trumpet and flugelhorn, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums for a ten-tune program that seems much shorter than its length of about 65 minutes. The playing is so engrossing that you lose track of time as you are enjoying the sounds that envelop you. The songs are six originals by Fuller, two by Stephens and one by Oxman, plus, “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” a beautifully played feature for Oxman and the rhythm section. Fuller continues to shine after fifty plus years at the top of his profession. Oxman and Hood are worthy compatriots, and the rhythm section compliments them as nicely as they could want. This is another milestone in Fuller’s recording career, one of his best. Reviewed by, Joseph Lang, Jersey Jazz.com. (February 2013)
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When talk of classic trombonists still active arises, Curtis Fuller’s name should be at the top of the list. The fact that Down Home, a strong, assured sextet date, is released 55 years after his initial date as a leader is slightly amazing. As saxophonist Keith Oxman points out in his liner notes, Fuller was only 22 years old when he participated in the landmark session for Coltrane’s Blue Train. He is now 77 years old and still going strong. Of course, there are no real surprises on this date. Down Home is a straight down the center hard bop date but no less listenable for that. It may not pack surprises but that doesn’t mean that thought and care didn’t go into this session. Fuller sounds inspired! Part of it may be that he’s working with the same group of Denver musicians he had on his last release, the well-received I Will Tell Her. Fuller also brought a bunch of his compositions to the date, both old “Down Home,” “Ladies’ Night,” “Mr. L.” and new “Nu Groove” and “Sweetness.” Fuller is particularly buoyant on this date. His solo on “Nu Groove” is all over the place, with smooth lines alternating with abrupt intervallic leaps. Fuller’s playing on pianist Chip Stephens’ ballad “Sadness And Soul” is the perfect illustration of the title. The jaunty “Sweetness” has a particularly well-voiced theme with all three horns (including Hood’s muted trumpet) giving it an almost choral sound. It’s almost as if Fuller has had yet another renaissance. He seemed to have one in the late 70s after a fallow period earlier in the decade. Down Home, combined with is previous releases on Capri and a couple of other releases from the previous decade indicate that the veteran still has something to say. Reviewed by, Robert Iannappolo, Cadence.com. (Oct.-Nov.-Dec. 2012)
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Trombone legend Curtis Fuller comes out of the gate swinging on his first studio album since last year’s heart-wrenching The Story Of Cathy & Me, a musical homage to his late wife. Recorded with a Denver-based band he’s worked with intermittently since 2005, Down Home pops with funky, swaggering horn lines, tight compositions and lots of soul. Most tunes are drawn from Fuller’s decade-spanning catalogue, though Chip Stephens’ and Keith Oxman’s originals fit in seamlessly. The title track’s warm tones give rise to a series of memorable solos, including a muted and voluble Fuller improv and an insistently upbeat response from Stephens. A similar energy pervades the bass-forward “Nu Groove,” as well as “Jonli Bercosta,” which sets trumpeter Al Hood’s hypersonic phrasing against billowing cascades of cymbal-heavy swing. Stephens’ “C Hip’s Blues is an unexpected gem, set up and later consummated by a motif that deserves a role in a Pink Panther movie.  Rainy-day ballad, “Then I’ll Be Tired of You” and Fuller’s “Sweetness” round out the disc with thick emotion. Reviewed by, Jennifer Odell, DownBeat.com. (October, 2012)
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Curtis Fuller accepted an invitation to record with the Mile High City’s top cats last summer and this enjoyable session is the result. The trombone star of John Coltrane’s classic Blue Train album sounds in remarkably good shape at 77, his drily fuzzy tone and JJ Johnson inspired style virtually unchanged since his Blue Note days. The local heroes also do themselves proud on a neatly arranged set of mainstream-to-modern originals, notably pianist Stephens and saxman Oxman, who organized the session and plays nimble tenor with a light, bluesy tone reminiscent of Harold Land. The date’s only ballad, “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” is his feature. The biggest surprise is Al Hood, a perky, hard-swinging trumpeter who sounds like an amalgam of Clark Terry and Clifford Brown. His name rings a distant big band high-note-screamer bell, but clearly he’s done a lot of woodshedding since then. Reviewed by, Jack Massarik, JazzWiseMagazine.com. (September/October 2012)
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Curtis Fuller, legend, trombonist of great influence and flair, elder statesman of jazz…at an age where many might be inclined to take it easy, Curtis keeps on going. His new album Down Home (Capri 74116-2) puts him in the company of some very-much-better-than-average hard boppers for a program of down home Curtis originals, a couple more by band members and a standard for good measure. This is rootsy music in the Fuller tradition, with a three-horn frontline of Curtis, Keith Oxman (tenor), and Al Hood (trumpet and fluegel), along with Chip Stephens, piano, Ken Walker on bass, and Todd Reid, drums. There is some good soloing going on (Oxman impresses especially but Hood can turn your head too) and it’s classic-style Fuller music. Curtis may not sound as vigorous as he did 20 years ago, but when he plays, it’s pure Fuller, albeit boiled down to the crux, the essence of his style. Down Home is in the pocket and hard hitting. Keep it going Curtis. We hear you! Reviewed by, Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegatemusicreviews.blogspot.com. (August 15, 2012)
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Curtis Fuller returns in a very joyous mood on his new release, Down Home. And he does feel right in place. His last few recordings have dealt with the loss, pain and celebration of his late wife; Down Home shows the resilience and continued brilliance of a musician still at the top of his profession. Leading off with the joyous title track, Fuller shows an exuberance that is really electrifying. A jumping hard bop number that sees the horn section trading off moments of affability and substance. Oxman and Hood, both of whom have performed with Fuller on his last few records are perfect executioners of Fuller’s compositions. “Sadness And Soul” allows Stephens to step into the lead with lovely agility and grace. Fuller’s performance is passionate and resounding throughout. It’s a late night piece that works beautifully. “The High Priest” rips along with a cutting edge from Fuller showing strength and superb quality. The sextet is on fire here. Each member rattles off a pattern of notes in quick succession that you really feel the energy and enthusiasm that the session obviously had. Down Home is another excellent chapter in a story of a living legend that continues to grow with each note. Curtis Fuller shows in 10 tracks why he is revered by younger musicians (trombone or otherwise). He is the best. And Down Home is a document every jazz fan has to have. Highly Recommended. Reviewed by, Stephan Moore, JazzWrap.blogspot.com. (September 16, 2012)
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“New” is relative. Take, for example, the Curtis Fuller’s piece Nu Groove on the veteran trombonist’s latest disc, Down Home. The tune might be the latest one in the Fuller songbook, but as a solid, minor-key swinger in 4/4, it’s hardly novel in jazz’s bigger picture. Fuller, 77, surely would not have it any other way. He still revels in the kind of hard bop he played in the late 1950s with John Coltrane on Blue Train and a few years later with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Down Home is hard bop presented by one of its progenitors, supported by a set of musicians a generation younger than he is, five players whose affection for and expertise in the jazz sub-genre are unmistakable. Chief among them is Denver, Colorado-based Keith Oxman, who struck up the crucial connection with Fuller. Oxman already had a ready-made band for Fuller, consisting of trumpeter Al Hood, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid. They play together with ease and grace, and these qualities add the proverbial half-star to an assessment of Down Home, which was recorded over three days in May 2011. Fuller wrote six of the disc’s 10 tracks, and solos on seven of them. From the shuffling, country-tinged title track that opens the CD to the loping swinger “Mr. L” and the classy “Sweetness,” featuring Hood’s muted horn, the trombonist offers jazz with the feel of five decades ago. Oxman’s “Jonli Bercosta is a minor-key shuffle that’s right at home on Down Home.  Stephens’ “C Hip’s Blues” is a swaggering blues that toggles from major-key to minor-key and includes a whimsically stomping coda, and “Sadness and Soul,” also by the pianist, is a lyrical bossa-style tune with Hood’s open horn delivering its plaintive melody. Everyone plays with fluidity and power. Fuller, the elder, can still swing and declare, although his fast closing tune “The High Priestmight have come more easily to him four decades ago. Stephens sparkles most brightly, and would likely be much better known if he were a New Yorker rather than an associate professor of jazz piano and jazz studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Reviewed by, Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen, jazzblog.ca. (August 20, 2012)
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This recording could easily have been released by Blue Note in the ’60’s, and if it had been then perhaps a track approaching the popularity of Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” might have emerged from its highly listenable slate of tunes. Fuller calls the quintet heard on this CD his “band of choice,” and it compares favorably to the best groups the 77-year-old trombonist has been a part of in his long career, including Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the Timeless All-Stars, and both the original and later revival of The Jazztet. This ensemble came together in 2005, and was heard on Keith Oxman’s 2006 Dues In Progress, as well as Fuller’s own I Will Tell Her from 2010. In addition to Fuller and tenor saxophonist Oxman, the group consists of Al Hood on trumpet and flugelhorn, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass, and Todd Reid on drums. Fuller brought six of his finest previously recorded compositions to the session, while pieces by Oxman and Stephens, as well as one somewhat neglected standard fill out the admirable program. The Fuller-Oxman-Hood front line seems to capture Horace Silver’s gospel/funk spirit on the title tune, “Down Home,” a Fuller tune from the ’50’s. Both the playing of the jubilant theme and the individual solos are infectious. Reid kicks the groove endlessly, and Stephens’ closing blues-drenched statement offers a subtle nod to Silver while mostly maintaining his own stylistic preferences. “Ladies Night,” a Fuller opus first recorded on his 1962 Soul Trombone LP, owes a debt to “On Green Dolphin Street” in its opening motif and rhythmic pattern, but once the buoyant, driving theme erupts the resemblance ends. Oxman’s swirling tenor, Fuller’s deep-throated trombone, Hood’s warm, round-toned trumpet, and Stephens’ darting piano, all have their individual says on this instant classic that culminates much as it began. A repeating graduated motif is at the center of Stephens’ “C Hip’s Blues.” Fuller’s conversational improv cleverly quotes from “Sweet and Lovely.” Oxman follows with nimble and lusty articulation, and Stephens caps this series of concise solos with one containing extended arpeggiated lines. After the melody’s return, a jabbing and spicy solo by Hood is offered before the insinuating theme reappears yet again, only to be succeeded by Stephens’ forthright coda to definitively end this terrific arrangement. “Sadness and Soul” is a ballad feature for composer Stephens, set to Latin rhythms. The pianist’s pulsating solo is executed with an appealingly light touch, after which the beautifully harmonized reading of the melody is reprised with Stephens’ darting filigrees seasoning the mix. Fuller’s “Nu Groove” was recorded by him in 1980 with Kai Winding (Giant Bones ’80). The spaced-out staccato head lends itself to alternately sparse and gushing improvisatory inclinations, which is exactly what Stephens, Oxman, Fuller, and Walker provide as they adroitly explore all the thematic contours and, as Monk might have said, brilliant corners.

The rarely chosen, lovely Harbourg/Schwartz ballad “Then I’ll Be Tired of You” is delicately and expressively navigated by Oxman’s tenor with a rich timbre and uncliched, tasteful lines. Shades of Coltrane with Johnny Hartman appear at times in his tonal inflections (Trane and Hartman both recorded this, but separately). Stephens and Walker get to expound as well, with authority and compelling delineation, as Fuller sits this one out. The leader first recorded his “Mr. L” in 1960 with Freddie Hubbard and Yusef Lateef (Boss of the Soul-Stream Trombone). It’s a medium-tempo loping swinger that generates down-to-earth, short but sweet solos from Oxman, Fuller, Hood, and Stephens. There may indeed be nothing new under the sun, but this heartwarming performance proves that there really doesn’t have to be. “Sweetness” also appeared on the 1980 album with Kai Winding. The ensemble harmonies on this mellow theme are choice and succulent, as is Hood’s frolicsome solo inspired by it. Oxman’s improv is more somber but just as satisfying. Fuller’s outing is notable for his immensely profound sound, and Stephens acquits himself well yet again in his probing exploration. The reprise is lifted by Hood’s pungent fills, which also graced the opening. Oxman’s “Jonli Bercosta” is another outstanding throwback to soul jazz anthems going back decades. Highlights include Oxman’s gruff, expansive solo, Stephens’ keen exchanges with the exuberant, prodding Reid, and Hood’s dynamic improvisation that falls somewhere between Lee Morgan and Blue Mitchell. Fuller’s “The High Priest” is his tribute to Thelonious Monk, and debuted on The Jazz Messengers 1964 Kyoto recording. Bearing some resemblance to the Davis/Feldman “Seven Steps to Heaven,” this tune begets agile, inquisitive solos from the composer, Oxman, Hood, and Stephens, all at the top of their games. Reid’s forceful drum work helps make this finale one of the most memorable of the 10 winning selections that regale our ears on Down HomeReviewed by, Scott Albin, JazzTimes.com. (July 11,2012)
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One of the last of the old guard of the hard bop era, Fuller is seemingly ageless, playing with a top-notch group that includes tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, trumpeter Al Hood and drummer Todd Reid. The mostly blues-based swing on here includes six Fuller originals; the laid back swing of “Ladies Night,” for instance, finds Fuller playing a jaunty solo, crafted finely over the chords. Fuller’s tone isn’t as strong as it was in the days he played with Coltrane on “Blue Trane,” but then again, that was more than five decades ago. This disc is a continuation of a long, smart career, one where he is elevated by those around him but certainly not carried. Every player here gets a chance to shine, and all do fine jobs, as Oxman proves with his lovely tonal turn on the ballad, “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” Fuller proves that jazz musicians don’t get older, they just find more great people to partner with. Reviewed by, Kyle O’Brien, Jazz Society Of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (July 2012)
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The “Blue Note Formula” was a phenomenon of the 1950s and beyond which brought enormous success to that honored label. It went something like this: a predominance of up tempo original hard bop tunes; a ballad or two from Songbook America; and, of course, a blues, played by a couple of lead horns and a rhythm section. As both a leader and a sideman, Fuller was a part of that era, and he brings it back most joyously on this new release. Working with sympathetic, in-the-groove, Denver-area musicians, Fuller and friends get this session underway with the title tune, a gospel-tinged opener that’s a cousin, one might say, of “Sister Sadie” or “The Preacher.” The blues choice on the session, “Chip’s Blues,” is a medium tempo entry from the pianist on the date, Chip Stephens. His solo is something of a brief handbook on the blues, as are those by Fuller and super tenorman, Keith Oxman. The example from Songbook America is the rarely heard ballad, “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” It’s primarily a feature for Oxman, who delivers every ounce of beauty possible. The other primary soloist on the CD is trumpet and flugelhorn master Al Hood. He is featured throughout –and to stunning effect. The remaining selections are all originals from the bandmates, true to Blue Note form. Melody reigns supreme; ensemble playing is precise and effective; and tempos are varied and always interesting. Veteran trombone maven Fuller should be proud of this new addition to his discography. Close your eyes and listen. The Blue Note formula lives! Reviewed by, George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (July 2012)
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O’s Notes: Veteran trombonist Curtis Fuller teams up with Keith Oxman (sax), Al Hood (t), Chip Stephens (p), Ken Walker (b) and Todd Reid (d) to make ten swinging selections. Down Home is a suitable title as these are tunes that sound familiar though they are all new. Curtis wrote seven; Chip and Keith each contribute one along with a cover of “Then I’ll Be Tired of You”. Just sit back relax and enjoy. Reviewed by, D. Oscar Groomes, O’s Place Magazine, OsPlaceJazz.com. (July 2012)
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Trombonist Curtis Fuller is a national treasure, and at 77 years of age he still plays with the strength and conviction of a musician half his age. Not only is his playing mellifluous and powerful, but his compositional chops are as strong as ever, too—this 10-track program features no fewer than six Fuller originals. He’s leading a sextet that includes the excellent tenor sax player Keith Oxman and pianist Chip Stephens, and on this album they stick to the hard-bop verities, alternating burning uptempo numbers with ballads sweet enough to bring a tear to your eye. An essential jazz purchase. Reviewed by, Rick Anderson, Rick’s Pick, CDHotList.com. (July 2012)
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Seventy-seven year old trombonist Curtis Fuller’s discography is a who’s who in jazz.  Likely his best known performance was at age 22 when he recorded with John Coltrane on the Blue Trane album for Blue Note. His first recording as leader was with Red Garland in 1957.  To mention a few of the musicians with whom he has been associated include Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Art Framer, Benny Golson, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie and County Basie.  He is currently a faculty member of the New York State Summer School of the Arts. On Down Home, Fuller’s second recording on the Denver-based Capri label, he is teamed with tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman trumpeter/flugelhornist Al Hood; pianist Chip Stephens; bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reed. Selections are original compositions by Fuller: “Down Home,” “Ladies Night,” “Nu Groove,” “Sweetness,” “Mr. L” and “The High Priest.”  Pianist Chip Stephens contributed two originals: “C Hip’s Blues” and “Sadness and Soul.” Oxman provided “Jonli Bercosta.”  The one standard is the Harburg/ Arthur Swartz “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” This is an album, which provides lots of fun.  The Fuller compositions first and last on this album respectively, “Down Home” and “The High Priest” are upbeat choice morsels with fine trombone performance.  Other selections give each member of the ensemble opportunity to shine.  This is an outstanding album for this seventy-seven year old jazz icon. Reviewed by, F. Norman Vickers, JazzPensacola.com. (July 2, 2012)
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Legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller was 22 years old when he played on John Coltrane’s landmark Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957), and the saxophonist remained best friends with Fuller during the 1950s and ’60s. In 2005, the trombonist met saxophonist Keith Oxman, and has since developed a friendship leading to Fuller’s favorable comparison of his new friend to Coltrane. For the past seven years, Fuller has been performing and recording with a sextet of players he now calls his “band of choice” which, he has assembled, once again, for Down Home. At the ripe youthful age of 77, Fuller shows no signs of slowing down as he continues to produce one album after another. This terrific recording is a follow-up to Story of Cathy & Me (Challenge, 2011) and I Will Tell Her (Capri Records, 2010); while these albums served as tributes to his late wife Cathy, Down Home has no real theme, as Fuller’s band focuses its attention on laying down some phenomenal post-bop swing. One sampling of the hot opening title track is enough to convince anyone that truly swinging affair is about to be unveiled. “Ladies Night” follows, an affirmation of that feeling after Oxman, Fuller and trumpeter Al Hood contribute their solo magic. Pianist Chip Stephens contributes a couple of charts with the bluesy “C Hip’s Blues” and “Sadness and Soul,” a more relaxing, down-tempo tune that may not swing but is pleasantly buoyed by a deliciously sweet melody. Bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid help Stephens pronounce the rhythm section on the expansive “Nu Groove,” though Fuller and Oxman do get in their licks. The rhythm section once again joins forces on “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” turning in the album’s highlight with a gorgeous rendition of this warm-toned, 1934 standard from Yip Harburg and Arthur Schwartz. Fuller and crew return to the recording’s lively upbeat texture, offering the propulsive “Mr. L.,” the engaging “Sweetness,” and Oxman’s bumpy, hard-driving “Jonli Bercosta,” where the saxophonist delivers some of his best solo lines. Fuller and his “band of choice” close it out as they began, swinging mightily on the trombonist’s last original “The High Priest.” No wonder Fuller is a living legend; this great artist prefers to dwell in the present, offering new music as often as he can and, with Down Home, demonstrating that his talents as a performer and writer have not diminished with time. A truly superb outing from one of today’s jazz greats, this should be commonplace by now, as it’s a certainty that Fuller is already working on his next disc. Reviewed by, Edward Blanco, AllAboutJazz.com. (June 25, 2012)
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Sounding something like the classic Blue Note recordings of trombonist Curtis Fuller’s youth, Down Home has an in-the-pocket joy that’s contagious. Fuller, who soared early on as a 22-year-old sideman during John Coltrane’s Blue Train in 1957, is again joined by tenor man Keith Oxman and a regular group of collaborators who’ve been together since 2005. That lengthy association has imbued the work here, even more so than on the deeply emotional The Story of Cathy and Me from last fall, with a sense of animated camaraderie. The aptly named Down Home, featuring six originals by Fuller, three other new songs from the band and a lone cover, swings with a mature passion. Fuller has grown by leaps and bounds since making his famous intro in the opening bars of Coltrane’s sole date for Blue Note, building upon the fiery intellect of that album’s “Locomotion” and largely shedding his early, more overt J.J. Johnson influences. By turns bluesy and then fleet and fun here, Fuller belies his own third-act vintage, offering a feisty performance that matches his own already fully realized ambitions as a writer. “Ladies Night” and the title track would have fit on any album in the classic era of post-bop. Meanwhile, the temptation is, of course, to focus on Fuller — the only remaining member from those all-star Blue Train sessions, which also included Lee Morgan, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. But there is, in fact, much more to be heard on Down Home. “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” a standard previously recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughn and others, features a gorgeous turn by Oxman, for instance. The group then remakes “Sweetness,” a key track from 2011′s The Story of Cathy and Me, into this simmering ballad — with a muted trumpet from Al Hood as its highlight. “Jonli Bercosta,” one of just three tracks not to feature a solo from Fuller, becomes perhaps this project’s very best showcase for his amiable, and quite able, sidemen as Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, drummer Todd Reid and then Hood take a turn at the mic. But, in those moments too, Fuller never completely recedes from view. Agile, confident and pure toned, Fuller’s trombone glints and delights even when playing in unison. It’s easy to hear him pushing his new friends toward greatness, and they achieve it on Down Home. Reviewed by, Nick DeRiso, SomethingElseReviews.com. (June 16, 2012)
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At age 77, Curtis Fuller is still going strong. He is on a winning streak over the last few years. We reviewed his mid 2010 release, I Will Tell Her, as well as last September’s The Story of Cathy and Me. Both of those releases were bittersweet as Curtis on record and in conversation, shared his love and devotion to his wife, Cathy, who passed away at the beginning of 2010. The Story of Cathy and Me was especially heartfelt and touching as he discussed the details of their life together. Rather than retreat into semi-retirement, Fuller has chosen to continue to devote his life to jazz as his way of healing his heartbreak. As jazz fans, we are richer for his efforts. On his latest release, Down Home, Curtis once again records with the same musicians as on I Will Tell Her. Tenor saxist Keith Oxman shares in his liner notes the profound effect that Fuller has had on his life since the two of them met in the summer of 2005. Imagine the opportunity to play with a musical legend, who made a major contribution to John Coltrane’s seminal album, Blue Train. Fuller is the only surviving member of that dream session. The rapport that Curtis has with his latest group is a testament to a recording band whose interplay has developed into a crack sextet. Curtis solos on seven of the ten tracks. Trumpeter Hood has a warm burnished tone that blends well with Fuller’s trombone and Oxman’s soulful sax. Fuller wrote six of the tunes and pianist Stephens contributes “C Hip’s Blues” and “Sadness and Soul.” Oxman’s contribution is “Jonli Bercosta.” Fuller’s title track is contagious as it combines a Dixieland vamp with soul jazz overtones, with the sassiness of Al Hood’s trumpet. It sets the stage for other winners like “Ladies Night”, which has an ensemble mix that is as sleek as a classic Jaguar, as well as Chip Stephen’s back-to-back winners, with the former strutting, and the latter a silky ballad. The sole standard on Down Home is “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” It is a nice feature for Oxman to show his lyrical prowess on the tenor. “Sweetness” does its title proud and will get your head nodding and feet tapping. Al Hood’s muted trumpet contributes to the mellow vibe. The intriguing titled, “Jonli Bercosta”, shows how comfortable the band is in sharing solo duties as Oxman, Stephens, Reid, and Hood each stand out in under five minutes before the ensemble mix takes the tune out. Down Home is strong throughout and will give those that have followed Curtis’ tenure with Capri Records hope that he continues to record more “Mile High” music. Reviewed by, Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition, audaud.com. (June 8, 2012)
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In an era where jazz is often “smooth”, it is always a blessing to find a recording that recalls the straight-ahead glory of the genre once ruled by classic labels such as Blue Note and Verve. This is exactly what happens on Capri Records with Curtis Fuller’s latest release, Down Home. Armed with a jazz powerhouse combo that hails from Colorado and the Midwestern United States, Fuller delivers six brand-new original compositions (“Down Home”, “Ladies Night”, “Nu Groove”, “Sweetness”, “Mr. L.”, and “The High Priest”) where the first two items on the list brightly open the album. Fuller collaborates tightly with trumpeter Al Hood, tenor saxman Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker, and drummer Todd Reid, and the sextet brings such a level of professionalism that it seems as though it had played together for years, and not for only three days in a studio. In addition to bringing performance excellence, both Stephens and Oxman also contribute as polished songwriters on two originals (“C Hip’s Blues” and “Jonli Bercosta”, respectively). Stephens’ tasty chart is a cool shuffle that very well could have been a midnight secret meeting of the music of Horace Silver and Neal Hefti (aka “Señor Blues” meets “The Odd Couple”), and Oxman’s chart is also blissfully reminiscent of Hefti’s and Mancini’s hard-driving shuffles of the late 1960’s. In any event, both are complimentary to Fuller’s songwriting, conform to the classic theme, and fit beautifully within the context of the entire album. There is only one non-original track, an Oxman tenor feature entitled “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You”, which the group has claimed as just a valid of a family member of the set, as if they had written the cover themselves. The instrumentation and overall balance of the horn and rhythm sections are a harmonic delight, and Burns’ dexterity in the studio ensures that listeners get a crystal-clear, front-row seat to hear the musical conversation. Finally, Oxman writes a great homage to Fuller in the album’s liner notes, especially when he states, “Repeatedly, I have witnessed Curtis’s remarkable thoughtfulness and sacrifices for others.” This generosity is keenly felt on each track of the album; even though Fuller may be the lead, the album conveys a basic understanding and celebration of each man’s immense talent, original soloistic ideas, and therefore grants proper space for each to tell his own story. For keepers of the jazz flame that wax nostalgically on Blue Note days gone by, “Down Home” is a veritable time machine that instantly transports the listener right back to the golden age of the label in the 1950s and 1960s; however, this album was masterfully produced by well-known jazz enthusiast, producer, and Capri record label proprietor, Mr. Thomas Burns in May 2011. Burns rightfully endorses the effort on the back cover as “truly Curtis Fuller’s band and they play together as one …” and that the album is “now among my personal favorite Fuller recordings of all time.” Down Home is set for general release on June 19, 2012. One can visit the Capri Records’ Curtis Fuller artist page at http://caprirecords.com/artists/curtis-fuller, where the album is likely to be offered for sale at mid-month. Reviewed by, Kathryn Ballard Shut, JazzTimes.com. (June 6, 2012)
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Jazz music has fragmented into so many different types in recent decades it is easy to forget just how it began from one source all those years ago. Curtis Fuller’s new album Down Home is an apt reminder of how Jazz in its original form was. Okay, this album doesn’t directly reference New Orleans Jazz but it is there deep in the roots of the music Mr Fuller and his colleagues play. For the sake of simplicity [and ‘cos I get confused by all of Jazz’s offshoots] we shall call this mainstream Jazz, a mixture of swing, bop and a touch of big band – whatever you identify it as it is uplifting and soulful music. Trombonist Curtis Fuller has a quintet of musicians playing with him on these tracks and the sound is muscular and full of oomph, but they can be as delicate as a butterfly’s wings on the ballads. These musicians are: Keith Oxman – tenor sax, Al Hood – trumpet/flugelhorn, Chip Stephens – piano, Ken Walker – bass, Todd Reid – drums. Down Home contains ten tracks, these are: “Down Home,” “Ladies Night,” “C Hip’s Blues,” “Sadness and Soul,” “Nu Groove,” “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You,” “Mr. L”, “Sweetness,” “Jonli Bercosta,” “The Hip Priest.” Nine are written by Curtis Fuller or other members of the band and there is one cover of an Arthur Schwartz song. I recall reviewing Curtis Fuller’s previous Capri release, I Will Tell Her and being impressed with it. I feel the same with Down Home, it is Jazz as it should be – melodic, inventive and most importantly full of heart. This is a great band of musicians and I imagine if they also tour then they provide a musically rich night out for you. Highly recommended. Reviewed by, m.peters, MusicWatch #12, the-boderland.co.uk. (June 26, 2012)
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Legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller has a new record out on Colorado-based Capri Records. Down Home is a charming collection of tunes new and old from one of longest serving and most consistently great trombonists of the century. As a sideman, Fuller has played on recordings with John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Gil Evans, Jimmy Heath, Quincy Jones, and many others. On this recording, Fuller is clearly and strongly in the lead, with sidemen including Keith Oxman (sax), Todd Reid (drummer), Al Hood (trumpet), Chip Stephens (keys), and Ken Walker (bass). From the frenetic bop of “The High Priest” to the subtle flirtations of “Ladies Night”, Fuller has a truly excellent new recording on his hands. Reviewed by, Mark Sanderlin, ArtsAmerica.org. (June 4, 2012)
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Curtis Fuller is back and ready to swing! The same sextet that slayed the 2010 Capri release I Will Tell Her, not to forget tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman’s Dues In Progress from 2006 is locked, loaded and ready for action. Fuller has gone so far as to compare tenor sax man Oxman to the great John Coltrane who was Fuller’s best friend in the 50’s and early 60’s so you know this sextet means business. Down Home boasts six originals by Fuller, one by Oxman, two by pianist Chip Stephens and a rare version of “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You” featuring Oxman on tenor. Critics are all ready calling this arguably one of Fuller’s finest releases and with such a formidable ensemble that has the ability to comp and solo while playing to Fuller’s lyrical strengths there is little wiggle room here but to perhaps agree with such a critical distinction. Fuller was a mere 22 year old phenom and the trombone voice on John Coltrane’s legendary Blue Train recording and now at 77 it would seem Fuller is the same humble and if you will Down Home person he has been all his life especially after recording and touring with the very best names jazz has to offer. Band members from this session have said Fuller believes in the importance of the ensemble hanging out together and it is this social interaction that can find its way to the bandstand and aid in the blending of the individual sounds.The title tune “Down Home” features a horn trio as tight as they come without every losing that trademark lyrical swing associated with Fuller. Swing is indeed king here with trumpet player Al Hood raising the roof with the unabashed joy of a musician truly in love with what they do. Oxman lives up to the Coltrane hype and indeed swings like a beast. The rhythm section keeping everyone in check is made up of Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums. Fuller’s lyrical voice is in fine form punctuated with a pop of vitality players 30 years his junior are still searching for. Stephens turns in a delightful solo making this a tune that you hear with your feet for if not then you may be waiting on your autopsy report to come back. “C Hip’s Blues” is a syncopated mid tempo blues with a deceptively subtle swing. Curtis Fuller kicks off the soloing and with a lyrical sense of purpose but never losing that innate sense of swing that permeates this stellar release. Oxman is a perfect compliment to Fuller. The yin to Fuller’s yang embraces the zen like less is more as the band settles into a groove you can use. A masterclass for those still confused as to the difference between swing and groove and just what the correct presentation may entail. Fuller has the ability to push the younger players past that point of sonic no return where one begins playing from the soul and simply lets go. Not one to hang out in odd meter or attempt to play from the speed is king mentality, Fuller simply does not have to with an artistic pedigree few can match. “Nu Groove” is yet another rhythmic feast that hits on both the visceral and cerebral levels. A harmonically adventurous tune while never straying into the land of the self indulgent, Fuller does what he does best – swing! It is however the type of blues infused harmonic exploratory that adds to the captivating ebb and flow of a first rate release. Time can be cruel but Curtis Fuller seems to embrace all the wonderful experiences not to mention the incomparable music he continues to add to a most impressive discography. This is old school pure and simple. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Fuller plays it straight or perhaps I should say straight ahead and never sounded better! Reviewed by Brent Black, CriticalJazz.com. (May 26, 2012)
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The jazz world of the fifties and sixties was undeniably a golden age, and legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller was one of the era’s key voices. Throughout his sixty-year career, Fuller has worked with some of jazz’s foundational players: he appears on saxophonist John Coltrane’s Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957), he was part of drummer Art Blakey’s smoking hot, early sixties Jazz Messengers, plus he worked with trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, saxophonists Hank Mobley and Benny Golson, bassists Paul Chambers and Jimmy Garrison, and pianists Bud Powell and Red Garland. In short, he was there. But unlike so many others, Fuller is still here and still going strong, as witnessed by Down Home, his excellent release from Colorado-based Capri Records. Fuller is joined by his working group of the past seven years: Keith Oxman, who has joined the illustrious circle of Fuller’s saxophone soul mates; the mighty Al Hood, surely one of the most commanding trumpet voices in American jazz; nimble pianist Chip Stephens, who Fuller nicknamed “Fingers”; bassist Ken Walker, who anchors the group with buoyant swing and bottomless soul; and Todd Reid, a perpetually tasteful drummer who keeps watertight time. One of the reasons this group is special is because its members have bonded deeply offstage as well as on. In Oxman’s liner notes, he speaks of Fuller’s belief that it’s important to spend time with the people you play music with, and over the past years this group has done exactly that. As a result, all the musicians are wonderfully relaxed and responsive to one another; whether the group is performing live or in a recording studio, everyone sounds like they’re having the time of their life. The ten songs on Down Home are absolutely delectable, each one flawlessly executed with taste, energy, and heart. Fuller’s soulful trombone and beautifully crafted solos provide the backbone, and the group is clearly galvanized by his wisdom and experience. Six of the tunes are Fuller originals, and it’s an immense pleasure to hear classics such as “Down Home,” “Nu Groove,” “Ladies Night,” “Mr. L,” “Sweetness,” and “The High Priest.” But this CD is not a nostalgia trip—the music is happening right now, fresh and strong, simultaneously classic and new. And although most of the music is up-tempo and hard swinging, contrast is provided by Stephens’ lovely “Sadness and Soul,” as well as the ballad “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” where Oxman’s sax sounds like liquid gold as it pours through the touching melody. This is archetypal jazz, nourishing hard-bop soul food to return to again and again. Long live Curtis Fuller! And long live this fantastic group, which shines throughout as it supports a jazz legend in his late-career renaissance. Reviewed by Florence Wetzel, AllAboutJazz.com. (May 7, 2012)
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Looking at the list of artists whom trombonist Curtis Fuller collaborated with in the course of career is like checking out the Who’s Who of Modern Jazz: Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Clark, Bud Powell and John Coltrane, just to scratch the surface. Fuller’s finely honed voice is the first horn you hear on Coltrane’s 1957 classic for Blue Note, “Blue Train,” his mournful trombone setting the scene for one of the best-loved albums in the music. But Fuller, 77, who shares the stage at Dazzle with Denver tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman on April 13-14, hasn’t been celebrated by every great artist he’s encountered. “In ’57 or ’58 I was playing a gig at (New York’s) The Village Vanguard, and Louis Armstrong was there,” he tells me from his Massachusetts home. “And I overheard him. I wish that I hadn’t.” What dreaded utterance did Satchmo make? “He said that I played too much bebop,” Fuller says before laughing. “I cried for a month, and I’m still crying.” Fuller is one of a handful of trombone players in jazz who moved in the innovative circles of bop in the ’50s, along with J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, and Frank Rosolino, who Fuller knew growing up in Detroit and cites as a prime influence. Fuller’s still in the jazz game, and even if he doesn’t record with the ferocity he utilized in the ’50s and ‘6os, he still puts out new music every year or two, including a disc due in the next couple of weeks on Colorado’s Capri label, Down Home. It’s another recorded alliance with Oxman, an educator who remains something of an unsung hero on the Denver jazz scene. Fuller and Oxman seem to belong to a mutual admiration society, and their partnership reaches beyond a shared affection for the music of saxophone saint John Coltrane. “We talk quite a bit,” Oxman says. “But it’s rarely about music. Usually it’s about pizza and ice cream places where we can take my kids. I don’t know if my kids appreciate his significance, but they sure do appreciate him.” “He’s nice people,” Fuller says of Oxman. “He’s a big fan of Coltrane and that’s how we came to know each other. I really have a lot of respect for him and his writing. He even has a laid-back personality, like John (Coltrane.)” I wondered if Fuller would share some personal insight into the Coltrane legend. “He minded his own business and always had his horn in his hand,” Fuller said. “He would always encourage me to come and see him play. He would say, “Take out your horn and give me your mouthpiece. He would put my mouthpiece in his horn. He was a driven type of person. And so is Keith.” When an artist of Fuller’s stature makes more than one comparison between Coltrane and Oxman, he must hear something special in the younger man’s music. And the friendship between the two should be on ample display when Fuller makes what has become his yearly journey to Denver next week. Trombonist Curtis Fuller blows his and saxman pal’s horns. By Bret Saunders, DenverPost.com. (April 1, 2012)
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Curtis Fuller – I Will Tell Her

A great deal of love and jazz history is projected on this two-CD set, recorded in Denver, Colorado, in May 2009. Denver sports a lively jazz scene with an excellent staple of musicians including Al Hood from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. Capri Records, based in Bailey, Colorado, supported the idea of including both studio and live sessions in this collection, centered on the music of legendary jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller. The featured musicians are inspired in these two sessions. Curtis Fuller, born in 1934, is entering his seventh decade as a jazz artist, and his legacy includes important work with John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Benny Golson, and others. Fuller’s friendship with Denver-based Keith Oxman has evolved to include an annual gig, and the sextet featured here has clearly embraced this project. Fuller’s playing is meaningful and heartfelt, particularly so in his poignant ballad I Will Tell Her. His warmth of tone and buoyant articulation remain hallmarks of jazz trombone playing. The most daring and effective soloist on the date is trumpeter Al Hood. His darting and soaring solos continually hit the mark. Hood has strong chops, balanced against the lyricism and lines of classic bebop. The opening tune is a Don Sickler arrangement of Fuller’s Time Off. The sextet bristles with energy, and every member of the ensemble displays deep roots and a driving swing. Fuller’s I Will Tell Her is recorded here for the first time, and it is worth the price of the CD. Alamode was a staple in Blakey’s Jazz Messenger’s book, and is played on this recording with a ferocious swing. The live CD features four tunes that were also recorded in the studio, along with Sonny Rollins’s Tenor Madness and the standard I Want To Talk About You. The excitement of a live audience propels each of these gifted artists to risk more and to extend their ideas. No player does this better than Al Hood, whose inventiveness and command of the instrument know few boundaries. Kudos to Thomas Burns of Capri Records for wanting to preserve this exciting music and special thanks to Curtis Fuller for a lifetime of soulful and creative improvisations that elevates the spirit and touches our hearts. Reviewed by, Jim Ketch, professor of music and director of jazz studies. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. ITG Journal – 2011.
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I Will Tell Her, is a welcome return by the veteran trombone player Curtis Fuller. Anyone the least bit interested in the history of Jazz trombone should know his name or recognize him by the words of “Jazztet” or “Blue Train.” This double-disc set is the result of a session under the leadership of saxist Keith Oxman for the same label. The tenorman is clearly out of the early Sonny Rollins bag and he has voiced the three horns adroitly to give them a fuller (no pun intended) soundstage atop the three-piece rhythm section. Although no dates are given, the live disc is taken from a gig at a Denver club called Dazzle, which served initially as rehearsals for the studio date but came off so well it was decided to include some as an extra platter. Four of the studio titles are present: “The Count,” “Maze,” “Minor’s Holiday” and “I Will Tell Her” one of the two ballads heard. The other slow item is “I Want To Talk About You” which is a feature for the sonorous saxophoning of Oxman. These in-concert renditions have an extra edge of excitement to them with elongated solos and a longer running time than the eight that comprise the studio date. Al Hood has his Freddie Hubbard chops down and the Chip Stephens-led trio provides just the right amount of push and pull tension. As for the leader, he sounds a tad different sonically without as much of a “buzz” to his tone, so maybe he misplaced his chamois skin bell cover. But compared to the last outing under his name for Savant, he sounds truly inspired. Recommended for sure.  Reviewed by, Larry Hollis, Cadence.
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Joyous sounds. Curtis Fuller can make his trombone sound like the instrument was made for straight-ahead jazz, even though very few trombonists have been successful at holding their own in the front line with saxophonists and trumpeters. Fuller played on the mythic “Blue Train” album for John Coltrane, and that’s where Denver tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman heard Fuller, likely when Oxman was in the throes of Coltrane worship. A friendship was struck between the two, and the new two-CD set under Fuller’s name, I Will Tell Her, documents their mutual admiration. The cover art for I Will Tell Her, is reminiscent of a prime Blue Note-era date, and that’s the predominant feeling of the first disc, made in the studio with spirited exchanges between Fuller and Oxman, aided by top-shelf Colorado players Chip Stephens (piano), Ken Walker (bass) Todd Reid (drums) and Al Hood (trumpet). The sextet stretches out on the second disc, recorded at Dazzle last year. The band’s take on Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness” is energetic, agreeable and a telling showcase for Oxman, who remains a well-kept secret outside of Denver. “I Will Tell Her” is joyous stuff, and the 100th release on the local Capri label, run by jazz faithful Thomas Burns. It’s as much of a triumph for Burns as it is for Fuller and Oxman. Reviewed by, Bret Saunders – Denver Post.
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This exceptionally good double album features the playing and writing of Curtis Fuller, a major jazz trombonist whose past accomplishments took him through spells with Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Added to which, he was on John Coltrane’s Blue Train. Here, Curtis is captured on two sessions recorded in Denver in May 2009, a regular venue for him and one that he clearly enjoys. During this particular visit a recording sessions was lined up and a few days earlier Curtis and his band, local musicians with whom he has had a long and fruitful relationship, played at Dazzle, a Denver restaurant with an admirable music policy. The gig was recorded and later it was decided that this live session was of such a high standard that it was worth releasing alongside the studio date. So, here are two CDs, the first of which is the studio date, the second the previously recorded Dazzle date. With Curtis here are trumpeter Al Hood, tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid. Some of the pieces played appear on both sessions but this is certainly no detriment. The solos are different and on the live date the band stretches out more. Apart from “Tenor Madness,” by Sonny Rollins, “Minor’s Holiday,” by Kenny Dorham, and “I Want To Talk About You,” by Billy Eckstein and Anne Rachel, all the music is composed by Curtis and are mostly medium and up-tempo pieces played with drive and verve. The work used as the album title was composed several decades ago for Curtis’s wife and this, its first recording, is a moving tribute to their long and happy marriage. The other fine ballad here is “I Want To Talk About You,” which features an expressive solo from Keith. Altogether, a fine set and one that should have a wide appeal to all lovers of jazz in the post-bop mainstream.  Reviewed by, Bruce Crowther, Swing2Bop.
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There is a sense of sadness apparent in this fine new recording from trombonist Curtis Fuller – whose wife of 34 years (Cathy) recently passed away. The listener will be hard pressed to keep a dry eye during Fuller’s solos on the title track – a ballad written 40 years ago for his late wife – and one she never had a chance to hear recorded. But this is more than a tribute album, and there is also a strong sense of joy of life and the spirit of perseverance expressed – appropriate sentiments from a man who emerged from a Detroit orphanage to become one of the finest trombonists in the history of jazz – one who was the first call choice of such luminaries as Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Smith and many more giants of the era. As a member of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Fuller was expected to take a lead role akin to the sax and trumpet, and as such, helped elevate the instrument. This new recording is a double CD release, featuring a live set as well as a studio recording. The band on this occasion consists of some of Denver’s finest jazz musicians, including tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman – who became firm friends with Fuller when they met in 2005, subsequently releasing Dues in Progress, in 2005. The camaraderie they felt with all the impressive musicians involved (Al Hood on trumpet, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums) led them to record this release of primarily Fuller compositions under Fuller’s name. The recording is mostly hard driving straight-ahead tunes like the opening “Time Out,” Kenny Dorham’s “Minor’s Holiday,” the simmering and harmonious “Sagittarius,” the African rhythm-filled “Maze,” bouncy “The Court,” fast-walking “Alamode” and the powerful disc-ending “The Clan” – which almost sets the speakers on fire with its ferocious energy. At age 75, Fuller is still playing at a high level and the interaction between these talented players is wonderful. The studio tracks are superb and warm, and the live ones (not originally intended for release) are extended and feature some of the hottest and most personal playing. Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness” is a case in point, as is the delightful Billy Eckstine number “I Want To Talk About You,” (both showcasing Oxman to great effect) while the live version of the title track is simply heartbreaking in its beauty. If you dig those Blue Note label hard bop releases of yore, you are sure to want to grab a copy of this excellent double release that celebrates the life, love, friendship and music of an outstanding jazz artist. Reviewed by, Brad Walseth – Jazz Chicago.net
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Curtis Fuller has played along side the likes of John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Miles Davis. But there is one man who Fuller would rather jam with now, an East High School teacher. “The last 12 years, he’s been my rock and armor,” said Fuller, a trombonist widely regarded as a jazz master. Fuller is talking about Keith Oxman. Oxman teaches music at Denver East High School. He is musician in his own right releasing several albums of his own over the years playing lead saxophone. Twelve years ago, he sent music to Fuller with hopes of making a recording with him. “This guy’s been a hero of mine since I was in junior high school,” Oxman said. “I don’t remember calling a girl for a date where I was more nervous than I was talking to Mr. Fuller.” Fuller says he read Oxman’s material and was pleasantly surprised. “When I looked at it, I said, ‘Here we go again,'” Fuller said. “It’s another John Coltrane here.” Fuller was best friends with the legendary Coltrane, playing together on major albums including the famed, “Blue Train.” Fuller says Oxman’s style and demeanor reminded him of Coltrane. The two started playing music together and quickly became the best of friends. “We’re the same. This is really weird, you know,” Fuller said. Their similarities can be hard to see on the surface. Fuller grew up in a Jesuit orphanage in Detroit as one of the few blacks in his school. Fuller traveled the world for more than 50 years with some of history’s biggest jazz bands. Oxman is a white man about two decades younger than Fuller who teaches high school students for a living. But they spoke the same language in jazz. “It just sort of happened and it was a natural thing and we just sort of kept in touch and talked,” Oxman said. In January, Fuller lost his wife of 34 years. He was devastated and turned to Oxman for support. “Been a solid friend, he’s the first one I called the morning my wife died,” Fuller said. “He’s been there for me and I appreciate it.” Oxman helped lift Fuller up emotionally and helped him put together a new CD dedicated to Fuller’s late wife Cathy. Oxman is featured on the album and he helped Fuller write the dedication on the release entitled, “I Will Tell Her.” It is scheduled for an official release on June 22. “I am so proud to be on this and a part of it,” Oxman said. That is part of why Fuller is in Denver now. He is scheduled to play with Oxman at the Dazzle Jazz Club in Denver on April 16 and April 17. Fuller is also here so he could play for Oxman’s students at East High School. “Here’s a guy who is the history of jazz music. He’s got albums as a leader in seven different decades,” Oxman said. Fuller is a guy who is happy spending time making music with his friend, the high school teacher. He turned down an invitation to play at a music festival in Poland to come to Denver. “This, to me, is just as much as that. And I opted to come here rather than go to Poland,” Fuller said. “This to me reaches that same level.” Interview by, Nelson Garcia – 9 News –April 2010
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Veteran trombonist Curtis Fuller is a hard bop master, and this two-disc set – half studio, half live – is simply his best recording in years. Fuller and his sextet revisit some classics from his “Jazz Messenger” years, plus the title tune, an original heartfelt ballad. Curtis Fuller may be a “lion in winter,” but he’s still a lion and he still can roar. I Will Tell Her: Reviewed by Bob Bernot, Just Jazz. (July 2010)
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Big Band music picked up momentum through the 1920’s and ’30s where it was performed live in clubs and on the radio. It’s music that was made for live audiences, and trombonist Curtis Fuller celebrates the big band sound with the live performances on his double CD, I Will Tell Her from Capri Records. Disc 1 is recorded in the studio with his sextet, and Disc 2 is the groups live recording. Performing with Fuller are tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, trumpeter Al Hood, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker, and drummer Todd Reid. The double disc set is comprised of eight original tracks penned by Fuller along with Kenny Dorham’s tune “Minor’s Holiday,” William Eckstine’s “I Want To Talk About You,” and Sonny Rollins classic tempest “Tenor Madness.” I Will Tell Her takes audiences through a wonderland of  Big Band-cast landscapes that incites ripples of joy and lightens the burden of everyday life. Big Band music was made to invoke pleasure and Fuller understands that impulse in every cell of I Will Tell Her. His trombone is an integral part in the operations that stimulate pleasure as he interacts, exchanges, and harmonizes with Oxman and Hood, while the rhythm section of Stephens, Walker and Reid buffer the points of intersection. At times, the rollicking flutters of the horns emit a chain of soaring crests like in “Time Out” and “Tenor Madness (live)” but then reduce the decibels to a lukewarm summer in tracks like “Sagittarius” and the title track. The jumpiness in Stepehens’ keys rip through “Minor’s Holiday” with the syncopated workings of the late Gregory Hines’ tap dancing feet, and the mid-tempo beats of “Maze”are alight with wrinkled horns that delight as they complement one another with intuitive strokes. The live disc leaves a lasting impression on listeners as the perky twits of the horns reinforce the pizzazz of Rollins’ “Tenor Madness,” and the reflective mood of the piano keys in the title track penetrate deep into the senses. The jovial looping of the horns along “The Court” inject a buoyant spree in the melody’s mobility, and the playful twists of the horns trellising “Maze” are supported by an undertow of soft, undulating beats. Fuller shows a flare for a sophistication while keeping the music feeling fun and lightweight. The entanglements in the horns are complementing as the rhythmic pulses are tightly knit into the melodic patterns. Whether Fuller’s sextet is being introspective or extroverted, they are bound by an intuitive nature and a mission to make pleasure attainable in their music. Review in Groove News, Jazz Inside Magazine. (June 6, 2011)
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QUOTES:

“The Fuller band takes no prisoners on this set of studio and live tracks. The style of jazz it played may be 50 years old, but these youngbloods surrounding Curtis are deadly serious about the music. **** Kirk Silsbee – Downbeat.

The title song and two-disc set are dedicated to a true love, but the music is clearly for the audience. I Will Tell Her, by trombonist Curtis Fuller, achieves plenty.” Woodrow Wilkins, All About Jazz.

Curtis Fuller is one of the last of the 1950s to 1960s Blue Note recording artists still playing, and though his travels are mostly limited to sideman duties, it is such a treat to find this two-CD issue, where he can show his skills are still strongly intact. I highly recommend I Will Tell Her to his fans. ****1/2 Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition

“Overall, this is one of the better recordings in the latter-period days of Fuller, chock-full of spirit, and comes easily recommended.” **** Michael Nastos, All Music Guide.


 


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