Recorded in 2002, but not released until 2018, this album features legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller, who turns 84 this month, leading an informally assembled sextet performing a set of standards, with two versions of "Caravan".
One of the giants of hardbop trombone, Fuller came on the New York scene in the late '50s with a series of recordings, the most famous his focused playing as a sideman and soloist on John Coltranes seminal Blue Train. In the '60s, Fuller was a regular with Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers and continued to record, slowing down a bit in the '80s-90s, but making a bit of a comeback in the Aughts. Fullers unique technique and sound are immediately identifiable: burnished nasal tone; focus on the middle range of the horn; finely intuitive choice of notes; and, particularly in the earlier years, a precise articulation at rapid speed that mimicked a valve trombone.
Fuller is joined here by Blakey tenor saxophone alumnus Javon Jackson, riveting trumpeter Maurice Brown and a New Orleans rhythm section anchored by drummer Jason Marsalis. Fuller, then in his late 60s, shines with flashes of his explosive technique.
The tunes are mainstays, generally played at medium tempos and, for the most part, following a similar pattern of head/solos, sometimes everyone trading fours, ending with the head. Jackson bursts forth with the melody on the opening "Good Bait", Fuller in counterpoint, followed by a firmly swinging and relaxed saxophone solo. Trombone comes next, with powerfully fast legato clusters, succeeded by a relaxed flowing solo from pianist Peter Martin, duet between Marsalis and bassist Bill Huntington, traded fours and recap of the melody. The pattern repeats generally for the remainder of the album. Highlights include solid soloing all around, scintillating drums on both versions of "Caravan", uncharacteristic growls and shotgun blasts from Fuller on the alternate version plus a fine solo by the leader on "Old Folks", with a compelling contribution throughout from Brown.
-Steven Loewy ~ DECEMBER 2018 THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD