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Champian Fulton: Change Partners: Live at the Yardbird Suite

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Savoring this tight, satisfying hour-long live session, it seems remarkable how briefly vocalist and pianist Champian Fulton had been acquainted with her accompanying trio. As Canadian saxophonist Cory Weeds explains in the liner notes, in 2013 he invited Fulton for a two-night appearance at his now-defunct Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, where she was teamed with local players Jodi Proznick (bass), Julian MacDonough (drums) and Weeds himself on tenor. A year later, Fulton accepted a gig at Edmonton’s Yardbird Suite. When costs prohibited traveling with her regular U.S. quartet, she called Weeds and asked if her “Vancouver band” might be available. It was, and the results are sublime.

Fulton opens with a jaunty exhibition of her piano skills, leading a rollicking instrumental version of Frank Wess’ “You Made a Good Move” that proves an equally fine showcase for Weeds’ dexterity. The rest of the nine-song set focuses primarily on standards, all featuring Fulton’s undulating vocals: a furtive “Change Partners”; a darkly caffeinated “Lover, Come Back to Me”; a dreamy “The Boy Next Door”; and a pert “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.” Better still are a loose, shrewd “After You’ve Gone” and bluesy “Social Call,” the young singer (still in her 20s) ably recalling Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. But the absolute charmer is a second mid-set instrumental, the shimmering “Bring Enough Clothes,” composed by her father, trumpeter and educator Stephen Fulton, which gives all four players the chance to stretch out.

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