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May 2004

Curtis Fuller
Up Jumped Spring
Delmark Records

Following illness and the loss of a lung, Curtis Fuller has a trombone sound that's a bit wooly. But it's still round and full, and his breath control, speed and agility are intact-and his imagination still flourishes. If there is no improvisation here as riveting as, say, his solo on "I'm Old Fashioned" from Coltrane's Blue Train album, he nonetheless constructs logical statements that are all of a piece. He crafts his "Bags' Groove" solo by incorporating items from his inventory of phrases, like a storyteller making allusions. His "Equinox" solo is new from the ground up, contrasting double-time flurries with passages of long tones and an occasional tromboney whoop.

With a solid Chicago rhythm section, Fuller and trumpeter Brad Goode make music the old-fashioned way, with compact improvisations on familiar tunes rather than extended explorations of original material. Their front-line work is a study in sonic contrast, Goode's penetrating sound against Fuller's enveloping suppleness. Goode generates a long flow of expression in his muted solo on "Up Jumped Spring" and follows with an equally brilliant one on "In a Mellow Tone." His work here again raises questions about why this remarkable performer receives less attention than trumpeters with neither his technical nor artistic merit.

Pianist Karl Montzka comps lightly and effectively behind the horns and has a crystalline solo on "Whisper Not." Accompanying Fuller in a duet on "God Bless the Child," however, Montzka jumps in whenever Fuller pauses, filling space that should have remained space.

The only misstep: On the blues "Black Night," an overwrought vocal by Jacey Falk detracts from Goode's and Fuller's expressive work.

Originally published in May 2004
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