Remembering Curtis Fowlkes

March 19, 1950 – September 1, 2023

A tribute to the spirited jazz trombonist

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Trombonist Curtis Fowlkes passed away on Aug. 31, 2023 at the age of 73.

He was born on Mar. 19, 1950 in New York City and took up the trombone early in life.

He became a professional while still in high school, working at many different jobs, often as part of a horn section with r&b, funk, Latin and reggae bands.

Fowlkes attended Manhattan Community College, began playing avant-garde jazz, and gained some recognition playing with the Lounge Lizards in the 1980s.

He was perhaps best known for co-leading the Jazz Passengers with saxophonist Roy Nathanson; the group mixed together humor with adventurous jazz and had its own sound, recording seven albums.

The trombonist also worked with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, the Louis Bellson Big Band (playing Duke Ellington songs), John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Charlie Hunter, Henry Threadgill, and Steven Bernstein among many others.

While he appeared on many recordings, was highly rated by his fellow musicians, and was a major part of the New York jazz scene, Fowlkes only led one album of his own, 1999’s Reflect.

Here is a performance from 2016 with CEO Experiment, a group also including soprano-saxophonist Michael Buckley, pianist Leopoldo Osio, bassist Peter Erdei, and drummer Cote Calmet.

-Scott Yanow


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