Curtis Fuller: Blues-ette

Although displaying the ubiquitous influence of JJ Johnson, the trombonist nevertheless developed his own clear sonic signature


Curtis Fuller and Benny Golson were regular collaborators in the late 50s. The Other Side Of Benny Golson (OJC 1750), Gone With Golson (OJC 31258), Groovin’ With Golson (OJC 226) and Gettin’ With It (OJC 31258), together with this latest reissue, are all worthy of attention.

In early 1960, when Art Farmer and Benny Golson formed their celebrated Jazztet, Curtis Fuller was their unanimous choice for the trombone chair. Because of financial disagreements he only appeared on their first release Meet The Jazztet (MCA CHD 91550). He was replaced by Tom McIntosh and later by Grachan Moncur III.

He was a native of Detroit, like Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, Pepper Adams, Frank Rosolino, Kenny Burrell and the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin). A particularly inventive trombonist very much of the JJ Johnson school (and who wasn’t of that school during the 50s?) he still managed to achieve his own quite unique signature sound. Numbers like Blues-ette, Undecided and Twelve Inch are all good examples of his work at this time.

Benny Golson was a double threat. An expressive soloist with chromatically intricate lines recalling Lucky Thompson, he was also a composer responsible for some of the most memorable themes of the era. Minor Vamp and Five Spot After Dark are both his. The Five Spot was a club situated in the Bowery. Golson and Fuller had a lengthy residency there after the tenor-man left Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1958.

EJC has included three titles from Fuller’s Jazz…It’s Magic with Sonny Red mistakenly referred to as Sonny Redd on the sleeve. A somewhat forgotten figure now, he was an inventive soloist from the Sonny Stitt school.

(1) Five Spot After Dark; Undecided; Blues-ette; Minor Vamp; Love Your Spell Is Everywhere; Twelve Inch; Five Spot After Dark (alt); Blues-ette (alt); Love Your Spell Is Everywhere (alt); (2) Two Ton; Soul Station; Club Car (75.51)
(1) Fuller (tb); Benny Golson (ts); Tommy Flanagan (p); Jimmy Garrison (b); Al Harewood (d). New Jersey, 21 May 1959.
(2) as (1) add Sonny Red (as); George Tucker (b) replaces Garrison; Louis Hayes (d) replaces Harewood. New Jersey, 5 September 1957.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55756