Curtis Fuller has long been recognized as a jazz trombone master, having appeared on numerous important recordings as a leader or sideman. Yet this CD is a project that is especially dear to his heart, a touching tribute to his late wife Cathy, who died following a battle with cancer. Interspersed between the songs are four spoken vignettes where Fuller describes how he met his wife-to-be, his rewarding life with her, and the pain of losing her to the terrible disease, though she was two-plus decades younger than he was. The program mixes originals and familiar songs to tell their story. Fuller utilizes a mix of different musicians to accompany him, with trumpeter Lester Walker and drummer Henry Conerway III being the constants. Fuller is still very much at the top of his game as an inventive soloist, and while the supporting cast isn't nearly as well known, they do an excellent job interpreting his charts. His upbeat "Little Dreams" is a reworking of "In the Good Old Summer Time," with sparkling solos from the brass and reeds. Tenor saxophonist Daniel Bauerkemper and pianist Kenny Banks, Jr. shine in the lush setting of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," a beautiful arrangement that is sentimental without being syrupy. Jacey Falk's "I Asked Her and She Said Yes" begins with a lively Afro-Cuban rhythm, then switches to energetic bop. Fuller's sauntering, funky "Sweetness" is another upbeat number. Vocalist Tia Michelle Rouse is added for the emotional ballad "Love Was Everything When Love You and Me," delivering a powerful performance of the Thad Jones/Abbey Lincoln piece. The last two instrumentals are both standards, a poignant "Too Late Now" and a melancholy "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year." It is clear that all of the musicians involved were moved by Curtis Fuller's tragic loss, as they buoyed him in his time of sorrow with brilliant performances. Benny Golson's heartfelt liner notes are an added bonus. Warmly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden