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June 2005

Curtis Fuller
Keep It Simple
Savant

There's nothing brash or unconventional about trombonist Curtis Fuller's latest, Keep It Simple. Still active and playing well at 70, Fuller hews close to the Jazz Messengers-style bebop and modal jazz he's been playing since the '50s. Fuller brought a solid band into the studio and delivers a casual, satisfying record of standards and modal originals.

Pianist Doug Carn brings a heavy McCoy Tyner sound to "Maze" and "A la Mode." Saxophonist Javon Jackson-who, like Fuller himself, is a Messengers alum-responds with some especially Coltrane-like solos. But the recording belongs to Fuller. His hazy tone and curt, snapping melodic lines sound more and more handsome as the recording goes on.

The only "misstep" Fuller makes is letting Jackson duet with Carn on the saxophonist's CD-stealing "Diane." Jackson may play the stalwart sideman everywhere else on this recording, but he steals the show with his jaw-dropping lyricism here. If any tune on Keep It Simple deserves repeated listens, it's this one.

Originally published in June 2005
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