Recorded in Hackensack, NJ; May 14, 1957.
This CD reissue features trombonist Curtis Fuller in a quintet with altoist Sonny Red, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Louis Hayes performing a pair of originals, two blues and a couple of ballad features. Red is outstanding on "Moonlight Becomes You" (one of his finest recordings) while Fuller does a fine job on "Stormy Weather." Even with the new material, this set has a feel of a jam session; the blend between the trombone and the alto is particularly appealing. Despite the overly critical liner notes (written in 1962), this is an excellent hard-bop oriented date.
All Music Guide
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Maturity, which is to say, the capacity to recognize and accept the necessity of making new beginnings as one's experience makes urgent the pursuit of new dimensions and directions, has not been swift in coming in the instance of Curtis Fuller, but it has been coming. His recent work with Art Blakey's currant edition of "Messengers" would bear that out. To go on, to grow, is always and, in a very real sense, to have to begin again, to be prepared to reconstruct one's sense of reality and truth as increasing knowledge and awareness demand. If is, of course, immensely difficult to continue this process for very long; difficult for both artistic and economic reasons. But if the artist chooses to grow there is no alternative, and continued growth, for everyone, really, but especially for the artist, is the only alternative to stagnation. In jazz, John Coltrane and, say, Erroll Garner, are significant representatives of the two choices that can be made.
Curtis Fuller is one of the most popular of contemporary-modern trombonists. He placed behind only J. J. Johnson and Bob Brookmeyer in this year's (1962) Down Beat Reader's Poll, and he was third in the '61 Poll as well. There is increasing justification for this popular acknowledgement and that justification would be the growing individuation in Curtis' music. It was apparent from the beginning, I think, that Curtis was a trombonist with a sizeable gift. Miles Davis, Bud Powell and Horace Silver were three early and important supporters whose responses to him were very nearly laudatory. The accuracy of their judgments is becoming confirmed, but the enthusiasm of their praise at the time was, it must be said, premature.
For some time, more time than the natural process of emulation of one's model to liberation from the model should normally (though not necessarily) take, Curtis' growth was stalled by the overbearing impression that Johnson had made upon him. He was capable, frequently, of an inspired imitation that gave his music a charge of revelation and more emotional impact than Johnson himself seemed able to muster in his own playing. But that did not last for very long. Individuality is, finally, the only force that can give one's work a spirit of urgency, and Curtis' music could not claim that. To break out of the confines of a constricting influence is something less than easy. It involves an unabashed expedition into the uniqueness and nature of one's self, and nearly everything we have been taught in our time and society is in opposition to such a journey. If requires considerable strength to make the new beginning, which is what, in effect, such a journey means, and there are remarkably few of us who are able to nourish an artistic pursuasion without experiencing some sense of guilt about it. Indeed, few of us are capable of freely following any propensity that might transcend the conventional, the conformist, the imitative. I think this is one reason why so many artists are preoccupied with thoughts about death at just those times when their work is going especially well. We have been taught that to deviate is to dissipate and, hence, to die - it takes a tremendous amount of courage to surmount this obstacle, to be one's self and thereby renounce safety and embrace the possibility of freedom.
Of course none of these thoughts would be relevant to Curtis Fuller had there not been some promise of a strong and original talent in his early work. And he is coming to fulfill that promise after much self-doubt and unhappiness. He told Nat Hentoff several years ago, "Obviously, I and any other young modern trombonist couldn't avoid being influenced by J. J. He set an example for all of us, just as Lester Young did for soloists like Stan Getz who came after him. But I've always been trying to develop my own voice. I remember Clifford Brown telling me in 1955 not to worry as much as I was about developing my own style. He said it would come in time and that you couldn't push it. Just as you can't push soul. You get soul from the environment you grow up and live in, and from the hardships you know. With a jazzman, you know, if he has soul, whatever has happened to him during the day will come out in his playing at night. You can tell the kind of day he's had without asking him."
Perhaps, now that he is coming to have a sense of his strengths and abilities, Curtis would add that "You get soul" from the good things that happen to you, the victories that you win over the environment as well as "from the hardships you know."
In this recording Curtis is heard with Red Garland, piano; Sonny Red Kyner, alto saxophone; Paul Chambers, bass and Louis Hayes, drums. Of the four originals, Sonny Red contributed the Parker-styled Seeing Red and Slenderella. Cashmere is Fuller's tune, indicative of his also growing talent as a composer. Roc & Troll is the work of Teddy Charles who also supervised the session.
The record is almost exemplary neo-Bop and the work turned in by each of the players is never less than good and, on several occasions, something more than that.
- Robert Levin (Dec. 1962)