Jazz CD Reviews
Curtis Fuller – Down Home – Capri Records
Published on June 8, 2012
Curtis Fuller – Down Home – Capri Records Capri74116-2, 65:30 ****:
(Curtis Fuller, trombone; Keith Oxman, tenor sax; Al Hood, trumpet and flugelhorn; Chip Stephens, piano; Ken Walker, bass; Todd Reid, drums)
At age 77, Curtis Fuller is still going strong. He is on a winning streak over the last few years. We reviewed his mid 2010 release, I Will Tell Her, as well as last September’s The Story of Cathy and Me. Both of those releases were bittersweet as Curtis on record and in conversation, shared his love and devotion to his wife, Cathy, who passed away at the beginning of 2010. The Story of Cathy and Me was especially heartfelt and touching as he discussed the details of their life together.
Rather than retreat into semi-retirement, Fuller has chosen to continue to devote his life to jazz as his way of healing his heartbreak. As jazz fans, we are richer for his efforts. On his latest release, Down Home, Curtis once again records with the same musicians as on I Will Tell Her. Tenor saxist Keith Oxman shares in his liner notes the profound effect that Fuller has had on his life since the two of them met in the summer of 2005. Imagine the opportunity to play with a musical legend, who made a major contribution to John Coltrane’s seminal album, Blue Train. Fuller is the only surviving member of that dream session.
The rapport that Curtis has with his latest group is a testament to a recording band whose interplay has developed into a crack sextet. Curtis solos on seven of the ten tracks. Trumpeter Hood has a warm burnished tone that blends well with Fuller’s trombone and Oxman’s soulful sax. Fuller wrote six of the tunes and pianist Stephens contributes “C Hip’s Blues” and “Sadness and Soul.” Oxman’s contribution is “Jonli Bercosta.”
Fuller’s title track is contagious as it combines a Dixieland vamp with soul jazz overtones, with the sassiness of Al Hood’s trumpet. It sets the stage for other winners like “Ladies Night”, which has an ensemble mix that is as sleek as a classic Jaguar, as well as Chip Stephen’s back-to-back winners, with the former strutting, and the latter a silky ballad.
The sole standard on Down Home is “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” It is a nice feature for Oxman to show his lyrical prowess on the tenor. “Sweetness” does its title proud and will get your head nodding and feet tapping. Al Hood’s muted trumpet contributes to the mellow vibe. The intriguing titled, “Jonli Bercosta”, shows how comfortable the band is in sharing solo duties as Oxman, Stephens, Reid, and Hood each stand out in under five minutes before the ensemble mix takes the tune out.
Down Home is strong throughout and will give those that have followed Curtis’ tenure with Capri Records hope that he continues to record more “Mile High” music.
TrackList: Down Home, Ladies Night, C Hip’s Blues, Sadness and Soul, Nu Groove, Then I’ll Be Tired of You, Mr. L, Sweetness, Jonli Bercosta, The High Priest