Curtis Fuller Sextet – I Will Tell Her – Capri Records 74100-2 (2 CDs) Disc One (Studio): 53:28 / Disc Two (Live): 65:05 ****½:
(Curtis Fuller, trombone; Keith Oxman, tenor sax; Al Hood, trumpet; Chip Stephens, piano; Ken Walker, bass; Todd Reid, drums)
Capri Records, based out of the Denver area, should be especially proud of their 100th recording. It is their first double-CD issue, and it features the legendary trombonist, Curtis Fuller, as its leader. Fuller, who is the sole remaining artist from John Coltrane’s seminal Blue Note recording, Blue Train, is paired with a Denver-based front line of Keith Oxman on tenor sax and Al Hood on trumpet. Fuller recorded on Oxman’s 2005 Capri issue, Dues in Progress, and here returns the favor as a major sideman on Fuller’s CD. In fact the entire band from Dues in Progress returns.
Fuller’s first CD in five years must have been a bittersweet experience. While getting to play four of the studio session’s tracks in extended versions live at Denver’s Razzle Restaurant and Lounge in order to stretch out and rehearse, Fuller was also still in the grieving stages for his soul mate, Cathy, who had passed away in Jan. 2010. Curtis dedicates both this CD and its title track, “I Will Tell Her”, to the memory of his wife. It is simply a gorgeous ballad, and Fuller’s mellifluous mid-range burnished tone expresses his love for his wife of over thirty years.
Most of the rest of the tracks on the two CDs are up-tempo pieces where the three horn front line’s ensemble playing stands out. The night club recordings are time-extended with four of the six tracks exceeding ten minutes. Curtis wrote the majority of both CD’s selections. Kenny Dorham’s “Minor’s Holiday” is found on both CDs and the band takes a run on Sonny Rollins’s classic, “Tenor Madness for over thirteen minutes at the live session.
What stands out is the tightness of this band – Curtis was wise to keep the band from Oxman’s 2005 session. Ken Walker’s bass is recorded well, and his bass plucking is solid and intense. Oxman is a fine tenor player with seven CDs recorded for Capri Records. His simpatico with Fuller is solid, and the two mix as well as Fuller would have with Hank Mobley, back in the day. Al Hood, on trumpet, fleshes out the Blue Note 1960s sound quality that I Will Tell Her provides. The rest of the rhythm section, pianist Chip Stephens and drummer, Todd Reid, also acquit themselves well.
Other winning tracks include “Time Off” which has a band theme quality. “Sagittarius” features both Al Hood and Fuller blowing warm clean lines. “Maze” features Oxman’s soulful tenor, and it is a shame that he isn’t featured more on the road, as he should be more than a Colorado fixture.
Special mention should be given to Don Sickler for the charts as well as engineer, Scott Greiss, of Mile High Studio, for a superb job getting both the studio and club sound just right.
Curtis Fuller is one of the last of the 1950s to 1960s Blue Note recording artists still playing, and though his travels are mostly limited to sideman duties, it is such a treat to find this two-CD issue, where he can show his skills are still strongly intact. I highly recommend I Will Tell Her to his fans.
CD 1: Time Off, Sagittarius, Minor’s Holiday, I Will Tell Her, Maze, The Court, Alamode, The Clan
CD 2: Tenor Madness, The Court, I Will Tell Her, Maze, I Want to Talk About You, Minor’s Holiday
– Jeff Krow