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Champian Fulton & Scott Hamilton: The Things We Did Last Summer

Dan McClenaghan By

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Sometimes it's destiny. In the case of pianist/vocalist Champian Fulton: Her father, Stephen Fulton, is a jazz trumpeter who, early on, exposed his daughter to the sounds of classic jazz, to the exclusion of the then current popular sounds. Also, legendary trumpeter Clark Terry, Stephen's friend,  hung around the Fulton house from Champian's earliest days, and slipped into a mentoring role  for the young woman as she became a professional in her pre-teen years. But most tellingly, upon entering kindergarten Fulton experienced her first exposure to the popular music of the day, including the vapid artistry of Madonna. Champian, the musically precocious five year old, found these sounds lacking, so she brought a Charlie Parker album to class for show and tell.

Destined to be a jazz performer, for sure.

Some initial impressions of the Champian Fulton/Scott Hamilton offering, Things We Did last Summer: 1. Swing and 4/4 time, laid down so exquisitely, is a balm for the soul. 2. Veteran sax man Scott Hamilton, with scores of album releases under his own name over a forty year career, sounds like the world champion of the tenor sax—soulful and robust, eloquent in his issuance intricate and nuanced solos. 3. Champian Fulton could make a fine career as a pianist, but, like Diana Krall, she also developed a first rate jazz singer's skills.

Things We Did Last Summer, like the handful-plus of previous Fulton releases, is an exploration of the Great American Songbook, many of them here  the lesser-known gems of the genre. On  "My Future Just Passed," a vehicle for Chet Baker, Shirley Horn and many more, Champian and Hamilton trade measured, dynamic solos, Fulton's vocal tinged with a possessive longing bordering—for all it's loveliness—on a  certain possessive  ruthlessness concerning the "boy I'll now be a fool about."

With the set's opener, "When Your Lover Has Gone," swing is king. Fulton sings it with a devilish gleam in her eye—she sounds, always, like she's having the time of her life—and she lays down a sparkling piano turn that brings Erroll Garner to mind: crisp, a bit flashy, gleamingly elegant, giving way to Hamilton's articulate, coming-right-at-you tenor sax.

Five of the eight tunes feature Champian's assured, sometimes sly, and slightly feline vocal artistry; three are instrumental quartet offerings. "Black Velvet," the instrumental highlight, would fit right into the groove of a Lou Donaldson album. Fulton and Hamilton roll smooth and easy on the bass/drums cushion of, respectively, Ignasi Gonzalez and Esteve Pl. It's an absolutely first rate band, working some superb arrangements. It brings to mind, in this regard, Billie Holiday's Songs For Distingue Lovers (Verve, 1957), with Ben Webster on sax, and Jimmie Rowles on piano.

Jazz for the ages—classy and marvelously performed.

Track Listing: 1. When Your Lover Has Gone 2. Black Velvet 3. I Cried for You 4. The Things We Did Last Summer 5. Too Marvelous for Words 6. My Future Just Passed 7. Runnin Wild 8. The Very Thought of You

Personnel: Champian Fulton - piano and vocals Scott Hamilton - tenor sax Ignasi Gonzalez - bass Esteve Pi - drums

Title: The Things We Did Last Summer | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Blau

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