Tommy Fulford

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The short life of this pianist included several extended periods backing up singer Ella Fitzgerald as well as a good deal of solo piano. Fulford's death in 1956 occured only a few months after his wife…
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The short life of this pianist included several extended periods backing up singer Ella Fitzgerald as well as a good deal of solo piano. Fulford's death in 1956 occured only a few months after his wife had passed away, bringing his total of years serving the jazz community a bit past the two decade mark. His first professional job took place in 1935 with a band led by Bobby Neal. The following year, Fulford got his feet wet backing vocalists working with the fine Blanche Calloway in Indianapolis. A decision to move to New York City kicked things into a higher gear, leading first to a job with Snub Mosley and then in the summer of 1936 to an important position with drummer and bandleader Chick Webb.

Fulford remained tangled with Webb up until this employer died, but most of the band continued spinning together to back up Ella Fitzgerald live and on record. After finally leaving this aggregation for good in 1942 the pianist concentrated on solo engagements although he did work with Tony Parenti at the Metropole venue in New York City beginning in 1955. Although the lion's share of his discography consists of sides with Fitzgerald, Fulford also backed vocalist Ivie Anderson and dabbled in the zany jive bounce of both Slim Gaillard and Louis Jordan.