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Champian Fulton: Sometimes I'm Happy

Ken Dryden By

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The daughter of jazz trumpeter Stephen Fulton, Champian Fulton had plenty of early exposure to the music through her father. She began piano lessons at the age of five and as she grew interested in singing as well, she began accompanying herself.

Fulton is a refreshing change from many of the singing jazz pianists of the past two decades, as she excels in both areas while never resorting simply to doing the minimum to get by in her interpretation of standards. She builds on the success of her 2007 debut Champian (Such Sweet Thunder), when she was backed by David Berger's Sultans of Swing. But this time it's a trio date with bassist Neal Miner and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, Fulton playing and singing a dozen timeless pieces that were penned long before her birth in 1985.

While Fulton's voice is youthful, her vocals often incorporate the touches of a veteran, including a defiant interpretation of "When Your Lover Has Gone" that has a sassiness reminiscent of Carmen McRae along with her superb vocal inflections and bebop chops in her driving setting of "September in the Rain." Fulton also masters slow ballads, such as Duke Ellington's powerful "All Too Soon," in which she communicates the sorrow of lost love desiring a reunion as if she has lived the lyrics. The one piece that is not as well known is "Whistling Away the Dark" (a superb ballad by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercerr, performed in waltz time), which Fulton skillfully interprets as if it has been a part of her repertoire since she began singing. The closing track features Fulton singing "Tea For Two" over Miner's walking bass, before she and Tainaka join him for a swinging instrumental break. Fulton is a gifted musician who is deserving of wider recognition.

Track Listing: When Your Lover Has Gone; Just Squeeze Me; Pennies From Heaven; All Too Soon; Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; It's All Right With Me; September in the Rain; He's Funny That Way; Sometimes I'm Happy; Darn That Dream; Whistling Away the Dark; Tea For Two.

Personnel: Champian Fulton: piano, vocals; Neal Miner: bass; Fukushi Tainaka: drums.

Title: Sometimes I'm Happy | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Venus Records

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