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Music Review: Curtis Fuller – I Will Tell Her

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Curtis Fuller’s wife of 34 years passed away a few weeks before I Will Tell Her was completed. The recording is dazzling, a vibrant outing for the trombonist created with delight and passion for the art form, but it’s also a loving dedication to his wife. It manages a joy that, given the circumstances, is well worth applause.

Fuller is joined by tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, trumpeter Al Hood, bassist Ken Walker, and drummer Todd Reid. It’s quite the formidable outfit and they do well to create a full, enticing sound.

I Will Tell Her is a two CD set. One disc features studio recordings, while the second disc features live recordings taken from the Dazzle nightclub in Denver. Fuller has performed with Oxman at the Dazzle each of the last five years, so the live portion of the recording really provides the foundation for how tight this band can be when playing together.

Fuller, whose work on Coltrane’s classic Blue Train is still ringing in my ears, demonstrates a calm command of his instrument. He fits snugly with the sextet, of course, but he also shines in the spotlight when he takes to the solos. Fuller’s playing isn’t showy, however; it exudes a quiet confidence that comes through in his many sprightly moments.

Fuller has also appeared on several Art Blakey and Benny Golson records.

The studio recordings of I Will Tell Her are mostly Fuller originals. Kenny Dorham’s “Minor’s Holiday” is an exception, with its full swing and proud solo patches.

The title track is beautiful, cooing with Stephens’ piano and a delicate intro. Fuller plays through thoughtfully, bringing modernity to the piece that he composed over 40 years ago. The song, which has never been recorded prior to this album, takes its time to stretch out fully in the soft sunlight.

Built on a solid friendship, the interplay between Fuller and Oxman really takes the core of this record to another level. Fuller and Oxman, despite sharing an age difference of 25 years or so, play as one spirit. Theirs is a relationship solidified through the trials of illness and death, but the jubilation with which they play stands as vigorous attestation to the power of true friendship.

The live recordings on the second disc feature an extended take of the album’s title track and a dazzling rendition of Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness.” William Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk About You” also appears.

Fuller and Co. play with such professional polish on I Will Tell Her that it’s hard not to listen with your jaw on the floor. Analysis and examination damn near fall by the wayside when Fuller takes to the trombone and true passion and peace take over. Isn’t that the point of it all anyway?

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