Beyonce’s saxophonist Tia Fuller has come up with a tremendously satisfying jazz album in her off-time. Decisive Steps is a record full of nuance, and the influences in her playing are rich.
Fuller credits Cannonball Adderly as one of her main inspirations. She also mentions John Coltrane and someone he looked toward, Earl Bostic. “He (Bostic) was one of the saxophone legends that mastered the art of playing in the R & B world, the pop world, and the jazz world…ultimately speaking the language and dialect of each genre,” says Fuller.
“Decisive Steps” opens the record in an aggressive, take no prisoners style, and sets the pace for what follows. One of the notable aspects of Fuller as a bandleader is her willingness to feature the other musicians in her ensemble. The ballad “Windsoar” is a nice example. In addition to Fuller’s searing sax lines, she allows ample space for her keyboard-playing sister, Shamie Royston, to stretch out. The song also features some great trumpet playing from Sean Jones.
The funky, R & B side of Tia Fuller’s musical personality is showcased best on “Ebb & Flow.” The track also features some outstanding work from another Beyonce refugee, drummer Kim Thompson. One of the more overlooked instruments in modern-day jazz is the vibraphone. At one time, vibes were considered fairly integral to a good band. I like how Fuller has incorporated their great sound by utilizing the talents of Warren Wolf. The cuts “Clear Mind” and “I Can’t Get Started” are good examples. The latter tune also incorporates a tasty bass solo from Miriam Sullivan.
“Night Glow” is another ballad, and shows more of Tia Fuller’s range, as the highlighted instrument is her own flute playing. With some sympathetic bass lines from Sullivan, this is one of the finer songs on the record. Decisive Steps closes out with “My Shining Hour.” It is a fittingly confident showpiece for the core quartet of Fuller, Thompson, Sullivan, and Royston.