Jeff Fuller & Friends
New CD "Shoreline Blues"
+ CD Release Events
New CD "Shoreline Blues"
+ CD Release Events
Jeff Fuller & Friends
Street Date: August 5, 2016
Jeff Fuller, acoustic bass; Darren Litzie, piano; Ben Bilello, drums
CD is available on CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.com
The history of the jazz piano/bass/drums trio is an encyclopedia of many volumes and entries. Remarkable bassist/composer Jeff Fuller’s new CD Shoreline Blues is an outstanding new contribution to that storied legacy, building upon the foundation he laid with his acclaimed 2015 release The Call From Within. The trio – called Jeff Fuller & Friends – was established in 2014 with pianist Darren Litzie and drummer Ben Bilello, and over that time has established that special level of synergy that results in seemingly telepathic interplay. That empathy is in full evidence on every track of Shoreline Blues.
Jeff formed the trio “to perform new, original music which re-invents timeless jazz styles with new vision and creativity” and indeed they succeed wonderfully. Individually these three men have performed with a veritable who’s who of both contemporary and legendary jazz. Together they form an entity unto itself under the strong, embracing vision of its award-winning leader, whose resumé includes long stints with Lou Donaldson and Paquito D'Rivera. It is somewhat unusual for a bassist to lead a trio like this, but that emphasis sets an ideal canvas for the type of interactive communication and creative development that is so essential for great jazz expression.
Though rooted in the traditional trio approach, the results here are utterly contemporary – inventive, adventurous and looking toward the future, not simply honoring the past. The sense of spontaneity that comes from intense listening provides vital life and substance to the music. Even during solos it never feels as though the other members are just supporting, but rather are fully involved in the creative process as one.
The Call From Within featured Jeff’s compositions in a palette that included Brazilian, ballad and bebop stylings. Shoreline Blues again features his eclectic compositions, along with two new pieces by Litzie, a pair of unaccompanied bass performances on some jazz classics and a full-throttle straightforward take on another. Swing, bop, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian and free-time are among the styles invoked here, all blended perfectly into a unified soundscape.
The two solo bass performances are fascinating takes on jazz classics – virtuosic, but not simply for its own sake. The first blends Charlie Parker’s Ornithology, in a properly swinging groove, with a rubato take on How High the Moon, the standard from which Bird created it. On Sonny Rollins’ Oleo, Jeff’s delightfully woody solo is accompanied by his percussive tapping on the bass, ideally complementing the solo. On these, as well as on the entire album, Jeff’s solos are brilliant – highly lyrical, vividly articulate, resonant and rhythmic; fully engaged in the musical context and thrust of each piece.
He switches to bass guitar on two of his originals, both with an infectious Afro-Caribbean flair. Angola opens the album on a radiant note, blending Cuban and Brazilian rhythms with joyous swing, and marked by a sizzling bass guitar solo. Friday the 13th is a jaunty swinger with a more traditional Brazilian samba rhythm, featuring a vibrant Litzie solo and another spirited bass guitar turn.
Three other Fuller compositions are also included. Think on This – a contrefact over the old tune, Imagination – swings in an easy groove off its conversational melodic line and is marked by a terrific piano solo. Expansion, noteworthy for its use of outwardly moving polytonal harmonies, is a gentle excursion, its theme stated by piano over deliciously bent bass notes, with another pair of fine solos by Darren and Jeff, closing with a sprightly trading of fours with Ben. Hail, Bop! is not the roaring bop-fest that might be expected, but rather an alluringly buoyant variation on Stella By Starlight that features a rich, chord-driven solo by Litzie and a warmly lyrical offering from Fuller.
The two compositions by the pianist show him as a complementary composer of depth and vision. The title track is nicely grooved and syncopated with tantalizing suspensions in the theme and in Jeff’s playing. Bilello’s solo over walking bass and teasing piano is highly lyrical in the manner of Max Roach and Joe Chambers. The probing, darkly suspended harmonies of Finding the Path set the tone for an excursion into adventurous waters that demands – and powerfully receives – extraordinary collective interplay.
Blues-based bebop in the traditional mold is the setting for the Parker classic Billie’s Bounce that closes out this splendid album with nimbly swinging solos by Darren and Jeff, driven robustly by Ben.
Impeccable musicianship, consummate group interplay, marvelous compositions and a constant aura of richly imaginative creativity make Shoreline Blues a must have.
Summer CD Release Tour!
Jeff Fuller & Friends celebrates the release of our second CD, “Shoreline Blues” featuring the amazing trio from our 2014 release “The Call From Within” -- Darren Litzie on piano, Ben Bilello on drums, and Jeff Fuller on both upright and electric bass. The CD contains ten tracks featuring originals in the bop, swing and Afro-Caribbean vein, as well as two unaccompanied solo bass pieces. The rest of the CD Release Tour runs as follows - all events are free.
· Saturday, August 6th, from 6:30-9:30 pm, at Fornarelli's Ristorante, 99 Orange Street, New Haven, 203-745-5677. Fine Italian dining and a friendly, conducive atmosphere make this a nice nightspot for listening in downtown New Haven!
· Monday, August 8th, at 6 pm, at the Hartford Monday Night Jazz Series, opening for CT's own Noah Preminger. The nation’s longest-running free jazz concert series, returns to downtown Hartford’s Bushnell Park for its 49th consecutive season.From a review of Shoreline Blues, “The keen musicianship on display throughout is nearly flawless, both in each player’s proficiency on his instrument and in his chemistry with the other band members. The musicians’ skill is matched by an unfussy, crystal-clear production.” Brian Slattery, New Haven Independent.
On Sunday, August 7th, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, I will join Dr. Joe Cardinale (guitar) and featured artist Arthur Lipner on vibes/marimba at Ayuthai, 2279 Post Road, Guilford. Call 203-453-2988 for info and reservations (recommended).
Thanks and Stay Cool!