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Champian Fulton: Champian (2007)

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Champian Fulton: Champian How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Anyone who wants to know what old-time swing and big band music is all about—or, for that matter, longs to revisit it—must check out Champian, which features vocalist Champian Fulton with David Berger & The Sultans of Swing. Furthermore, anyone who wants a definition of adult sensuality and sexiness, as relayed in the words of a song and how they are delivered, would do well to listen carefully to the interplay between Fulton and Berger's band playing his top-notch arrangements.

This release offers definite proof of what a well-crafted tune is and why such songs continue to attract players and arrangers. Many vocalists and some players continue to try to arrange and perform modern tunes from say, The Beatles or Stevie Wonder, with mixed results—primarily because the originals are still fresh in our ears, no matter how good the tunes are.

These Great American Songbook tunes, however, stand alone from their performance and thus offer a musical urtext from which the singer and/or player can begin personalization. What this means though, is that it is incumbent on the interpreter to bring the song to life, to pour herself into the vessel that is the tune and make it her own. A good tune invites and actually demands this treatment; none other than Lester Young used to say that he needed to know the words to the tunes he played.

Vocalist Champian Fulton is a living anachronism in that she is in her early twenties, and yet channels the very soul of the "birds" who sang in front of the Swing Era big bands as well as embodies the essence of the great female jazz singers of the past. A jazz singer is one who communicates beyond the words and knows just the right tempo, the way to slide into or out of a note, and how far behind the beat is "just right.

Fulton is sassy and sexy; wise and naïve while winking, naughty while remaining innocent. Fulton's instrument is not the kind that flows effortlessly, and which gets separated from the body behind it. Rather, her singing is somewhere between speech and song, right on pitch and capped by a tight vibrato. However, her voice is full of personality; one can hear the person behind the singing, and you just want to meet her.

Berger knows these tunes inside and out, and loves this music. He is a master arranger, and on this record demonstrates how to not only make the band sound great behind a singer, but also how to open things up for a terrific solo. He and the band know just what the right tempo is, and what the term "sophisticated really means.

This is a marvelous recording, full of great tunes, great playing and wonderful singing. It shows how good music from any era can come alive for us now.


Track Listing: I Didn't Mean a Word I Said; He Ain't Got Rhythm; This Is Always; They Didn't Believe Me; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Get Out of Town; Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens; It's Crazy; The Gypsy; You Turned the Tables on Me; Too Close for Comfort; Romance in the Dark; Just One of Those Things; Never-The-Less.

Personnel: Champian Fulton: vocals, piano (10, 14); David Berger: conductor, arranger; Jay Brandford: reeds; Matt Hong: reeds, vocals; Dan Block: reeds; Mark Hynes: reeds; Carl Maraghi: reeds; Bob Millikan: trumpet; Brian "Fletch" Pareschi: trumpet, vocals; Irv Grossman: trumpet; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Wayne Goodman: trombone; Ryan Keberle: trombone, vocals; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; Isaac ben Ayala: piano; Dennis Irwin: bass; Jimmy Madison: drums.

Record Label: Such Sweet Thunder

Style: Big Band


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