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April 2007

Tia Fuller
Healing Space
Mack Avenue Records

If jazz were not still largely a boys’ club, it wouldn’t be necessary to point out that this is an all-female ensemble. And if jazz were more lucrative, Fuller might be working more with her regular quartet instead of touring with Beyoncé. Reasons perhaps for Healing Space to open on such a strong note with the charging postbop tune, “Breakthrough.” (Up-and-coming trumpeter Sean Jones, whose three albums for this label display Fuller as a guest, is featured here and on several tracks.) The fleet “Just a Journey” and the Latin-tinged “Fertile Ground” (with percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell) send a similar message and find Fuller swapping alto for soprano sax. Not surprisingly, given both her instrument and the title and overall theme of the disc, there is something of an homage to Coltrane with “Blue Room in Mama’s Womb.” The delicate “The Olive Leaf and the Dove,” with Fuller on flute, showcases the group’s pensive side. Rounding out the set are the lightly hip-hop-flavored “Ebonics” and two slightly saccharine vocal numbers that skirt the edge of smooth-jazz. Fuller and her bandmates—pianist Miki Hayama, bassist Miriam Sullivan and drummer Kim Thompson—may not succeed in kicking the door for women instrumentalists open a bit wider, but they do nothing to hinder the cause while sending a message that they’ve definitely come to play.

Originally published in April 2007
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