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Tia Fuller: Decisive Steps

Larry Taylor By

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Tia Fuller makes strong statements with her solid saxophone and imaginative compositions in Decisive Steps. She surrounds herself here with female musician—drummer Kimberly Thompson, bassist Miriam Sullivan, and pianist Shamie Royston, who also plays Fender Rhodes. Prominent as well, are male guest stars: bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Sean Jones, and vibraphonist Warren Wolf.

This is Fuller's second Mack Avenue release following 2007's Healing Space. Excelling in all the reeds, she prominently displays her alto and soprano work here. It is obvious as she reveals in the liner notes, that her strongest influence is Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. But she also looks to John Coltrane for inspiration and her solos throughout are gems of improvisation.



Originally from Colorado and now a New Yorker, Fuller has honed her talent, playing with such names as Wycliffe Gordon, Mickey Roker, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Heath, and Gerald Wilson. She comes to this session after a recent road trip with R&B star Beyoncé, which gave her a chance to show off her prowess before large crowds.

McBride is another idol and mentor whose influence looms large. "Shades of McBride" is Fuller's slant on his tune "Shade of the Cedar Tree." Her light hearted alto solo is coupled with Wolf's energetic vibes and McBride's commanding bass makes this a winner.

The decider, though, on the album, is her version of the standard "I Can't Get Started With You." It begins with Fuller's flowing, bobbing, and weaving cadenza, which ushers in McBride's graceful bass, shaded by Royston's delicate Fender Rhodes as Wolff's vibes solo clinches this beautiful version.

On the Latin tinged "Kissed By the Sun," Jones trumpet sets the bright mood, while Fuller's strong Coltranesque solo on soprano sax finishes it. Another lustrous side is Fuller's arrangement of the Harold Arlen / Johnny Mercer classic "My Shining Hour," which features her plaintive solo, effectively contrasted by Royston's spiky piano chords and McBride's relentless beat. The number is further ignited by Thompson's explosive drumming.

Decisive Steps takes an important stride on Fuller's path for recognition.


Track Listing: Decisive Steps; Windsoar; Ebb & Flow; I Can't Get Started; Kissed By the Sun; Shades of McBride; Clear Mind; Night Glow; My Shining Hour.

Personnel: Tia Fuller: alto, soprano saxophones; Kim Thompson: drummer; Miriam Sullivan: bass; Shamie Royston: piano, Fender Rhodes; Sean Jones: trumpet; Christian McBride: bass; Warren Wolf: vibraphone; Maurice Chestnut: tap dancer.

Title: Decisive Steps | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records


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