Curtis Fuller Quintet

Blues-ette, Pt. 2

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Curtis Fuller and Benny Golson were charter members in the Jazztet of the late '50s and early '60s. The band was revived a few times by Golson and founder Art Farmer, but this 1993 edition has no trumpeter. Tommy Flanagan, Ray Drummond, and Al Harewood comprise a dynamite rhythm section that allows the front-line musicians all the freedom they need to play tandem melodies signifying the happy feeling of the original Jazztet. Golson, the consummate player and especially composer, asserts his will on most of this date, while Fuller, the leader in name, follows merrily along and plays as cleanly as he ever has. Flanagan is a definite force, quoting phrase upon phrase of jazz standards spontaneously and adding his refined, unlimited string of genius ideas whether comping or playing harmonious chords. The best-known tracks of the collection are Golson's evergreens like the Art Blakey-adopted beloved standard and easy swinging "Along Came Betty" and an updated take of the classic hard bopper "Five Spot After Dark," identified by the perfect tandem melody from Golson and Fuller. "Love, Your Spell Is Everywhere" holds the most mysterious intrigue, with a patented Flanagan intro and a fine Fuller solo. There's an overall sense of cool, as nothing is rushed or blatantly fast. Though "How Am I to Know?" is quicker, it is not blindingly so, as the band also echoes the hopeful theme of "Watch What Happens" in a display of ultimate democracy and balance. Themes of "A Child Is Born" and "I Remember Clifford" convene during the sensitive Golson ballad "Is It All a Game?," while other hushed moments on the big-city blues "Manhattan Serenade" settle further into a slow, lazy mood. More of that exonerated good-time feeling is extracted during Fuller's "Capt' Kid," a bright parallel calypso to the Sonny Rollins standard "St. Thomas." It's clear the past and present are merging during the entire program, as the band snatches snippets to expound upon, most notably when Flanagan borrows blue phrases from show tune, Dizzy Gillespie, or Milt Jackson melodies during "Blues-ette '93" -- not a take on the famous Toots Thielemans tune "Bluesette." A solid recording from top to bottom with no filler or cereal, and showcasing a good chunk of Golson's many great works, this comes easily recommended to all modern mainstream jazz lovers without hesitation.

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