Curtis Fuller: Down Home (2012)
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.
Track Listing: 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 High Priest.
Personnel: Curtis Fuller: trombone; Keith Oxman: tenor saxophone; Al Hood: trumpet, Flugelhorn; Chip Stephens: piano; Ken Walker: bass; Todd Reid: drums.