The Artistry of… Curtis Fuller

Over the years I’ve had friends and met many players who were trombonists. It’s an instrument I think that holds a place in the brass family that’s not that much different from the cello in the string family. Its personality is warm and lyrical. In common as well is an ability to portray a sly sense of humour. It’s privy to a repertoire of sound effects and animated ways of playing — watch any energized New Orleans band on parade. It’s a standout in many line-ups of the greatest horn sections of so many great bands of all genres and types of ensembles. Bone players are a special breed. The pre-warming up of the slide before notes get played alone is a reality unique to them. It’s a trombone-only movement just before the sweetness of the tone.

One of the fathers of the instrument’s jazz odyssey is the great Curtis Fuller. His career has spanned over 60 years and he is acknowledged as one of the most influential trombonists in jazz. He is as unique as the mechanics of the instrument itself.

Inventive, wry, and articulate, the tone, like the cello, is expressive and deeply rich. It can be sensitively passionate in expression and then as brilliant in speed. In so many ways Fuller’s own personality matches his instrument. It’s said that on the road, his way was all about relaxation and an engaging sense of humour. Gigi Gryce spoke of Fuller as having “buckets and buckets and tons of soul.”