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15

Larry Fuller: Larry Fuller

Dan Bilawsky By

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Bassist Ray Brown sure knew how to pick his pianists. While each player who manned the 88s in Brown's trio displayed a different personality, all had Swiss watch timing and shared an affinity for the blues and effulgent swing. It didn't take more than a few seconds to hear that when Gene Harris was on the bench, delivering church-y proclamations and earth-shaking tremolos, and it was equally noticeable when Benny Green put his hands to good use, displaying the Oscar Peterson-esque athleticism that remains his calling card. And while there isn't very much recorded evidence to cover pianist Larry Fuller's time with Brown, it's clear that he possesses all of those traits that Brown looked for in a pianist.

Fuller's time with Brown was relatively short—lasting a bit over two years, from the dawn of this century until the bassist's passing in the summer of 2002—but he made an impact on Brown's music during that time. More importantly, Brown made an impact on him. So much so, in fact, that Fuller's two leader sessions to date are essentially made from the Ray Brown Trio mold. The first—Easy Walker (Pony Boy, 2005)—found Fuller working with a trio that included Brown and drummer Jeff Hamilton, who worked extensively in Brown's trio and employed Fuller in his own trio during the '90s. The second—this eponymous date—finds Fuller delivering wonderfully showy material balanced out by thoughtful breathers. For this one, he teams up with veteran bassist Hassun Shakur and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, another Ray Brown Trio alum.

The opening salvo of "At Long Last Love," "Parking Lot Blues" and "Daahoud" immediately makes it clear that Fuller doesn't mess around. Chops, class, and in-the-pocket ensemble play are all on full display. There's plenty to marvel at on those three, with Fuller's sprinting right hand runs, commanding left hand, and mastery of independence running high on the list. And just when it seems that this is a date built on full-out swing and high-spirited romps, Fuller starts throwing change-ups. Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" gives everybody a chance to calm down and reflect; "Django," starting and ending in semi-MJQ fashion, really swings in the middle; and "C Jam Blues," which follows an appropriately-measured "Reflections In D/Prelude To A Kiss," is a rollicking solo piano showcase.

There's virtually nothing missing here. Looking for something poignant and romantic that still manages to move along? Try "Close Enough For Love." Want to hear some burning bop? Look no further than the album-ending "Celia," a smoking performance that gives Hutchinson some well-deserved space to shine and finds the leader in fine form. Ray Brown may be gone, but the legacy of his trio is safe in the hands of people like Larry Fuller.

Track Listing: At Long Last Love; Parking Lot Blues; Daahoud; Both Sides Now; Django; Hymn To Freedom; Reflections In D/Prelude To A Kiss; C Jam Blues; Old Folks; Old Devil Moon; Close Enough For Love; Celia.

Personnel: Larry Fuller: piano; Hassan Shakur: bass; Greg Hutchinson: drums.

Title: Larry Fuller | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Capri Records

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