Remembering Curtis Fuller

December 15, 1934 – May 8, 2021


A tribute to the hard bop trombonist

Trombonist Curtis Fuller passed away on May 8, 2021, at the age of 88.

Fuller was born Dec. 13, 1934, in Detroit and was part of the very fertile local jazz scene.

He served in the Army (1953-55), made his recording debut with Paul Chambers in 1956, and became a member of Yusef Lateef’s group, moving to New York.

Fuller quickly became in demand for record dates, leading his own sessions and uplifting dates led by Paul Quinichette, Clifford Jordan, Sonny Clark, Bud Powell, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Jackie McLean, John Jenkins, John Coltrane (the classic Blue Train), Lou Donaldson and Machito, all in 1957.

The trombonist was on many albums during the next few years before becoming a member of the Jazztet (1960) and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1961-65).

Inspired by J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller had his own style within the hard bop tradition.

Later associations included the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Count Basie (1975-76), reunions with the Jazztet, and Woody Shaw in addition to heading his own groups; Fuller also led at least 27 albums in his career.

From 1982, Curtis Fuller is featured with an all-star Jazz Messengers group (led by drummer Art Blakey) on “Blues March” along with a young Wynton Marsalis, tenor-saxophonist Benny Golson, trumpeter Terence Blanchard (who was just 20), and pianist John O’Neal.

-Scott Yanow

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