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Champian Fulton: Speechless (Posi-Tone)

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Today’s young jazz musicians are often remarkably prolific. Champian Fulton is 31 and has now released eight albums. Speechless is an example of another current trend: the insistence of so many young players on recording their own material, sometimes exclusively.

Both trends are understandable. They want to get their music out there and strut their own stuff; they don’t want to rehash the same old standards; they don’t want to pay licensing fees. But often, the best tracks on several average albums could have made one strong one. And there are many more good players than composers. Everything Fulton writes sounds vaguely familiar, probably because her pieces contain so many generic, timeworn constructs. Sometimes the familiarity is explicit: “Pergola” opens like “Crazy He Calls Me.”

Much of this album is quaint. “Day’s End,” lavish with embellishments and fills, has oompah bass action in the left hand and syncopated melody lines in the right that might have come from 90 years ago, when stride was new. “Lullaby for Art” could have been written in 1958 by any musician who loved the catchy funk of Bobby Timmons. The most appealing quality of Fulton’s music is positive energy. Though tunes like “Later Gator” and “Happy Camper” are made from clichés, and are cluttered with her favorite fallback decorative devices and streaming runs, they still swing. The only standard, “Somebody Stole My Gal,” from 1918, is good clean fun. Fulton opens it with slow, solemn faux-classical formalism, then turns it loose into a flat-out burner.

Speechless is Fulton’s first instrumental album. Her earlier vocal work has been well received. As a pianist she is competent, but because gifted pianists are now legion in the world, the bar has been set high. At this point, Fulton lacks the resources to make an impact with a piano-trio recording.

Originally Published