Curtis Fuller Thursday, July 17, 2008 (second set) Dazzle Better Than: Fishing with some really good bait.
John Coltrane’s Blue Train was one of the most celebrated albums Curtis Fuller played on, so it seemed fitting for the trombonist to open up the set with “Maze,” a song he wrote with the legendary saxophonist in mind. Todd Reid’s intense drumming and Ken Walker’s solid bass playing propelled the modal excursion, which harked back to mid-‘60s era Coltrane. A few seconds into tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman’s fiery solo it was evident the guy had studied the ways of the Trane. Following the song, Fuller said that Oxman even had a similar practice regimen as Coltrane, who was known for sometimes working on his chops twelve hours a day.
While the standard “Star Eyes” has been recorded and performed by hundreds of people over the years, the sextet gave the tune a bit of a Charlie Parker spin, with Oxman opening his solo with some speedy and nimble Bird-like runs. Fuller then followed with a brief yet commanding solo and filled up the room with that wonderful tone he coaxes out of his trombone. Trumpeter Al Hood was also cooking on the tune.
The guys kept the momentum surging on Tadd Dameron’s “Good Bait” with Fuller, Oxman and Hood each delivering some masterful solo work. The three horn players then left the stage and let pianist Chip Stephens, Walker and Reid spread out on a lovely version of “Old Folks.” Oxman and Hood then came back out for a rousing version of Clifford Brown’s swinging blues tune “Sandu.” Hood soared into the high register, his piercing blue tone ringing throughout.
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The musicians were firing on all cylinders throughout the set’s closer, “Caravan.” They went at it fast and furious, and, at times, it recalled Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ rendition on his 1962 album of the same name, which Fuller played on. Fuller was really digging in, as were Oxman and Hood, especially near the end when they were each soloing simultaneously.
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Personal Bias: While Fuller’s solos might’ve been brief, it was still wonderful seeing the jazz legend in action. Random Detail: Stephens, who was formerly a professor in CU-Boulder’s jazz department, now teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. By the Way: Fuller, Hood, Stephens, Reid and Walker are also on Oxman’s latest album, Dues in Progress.