Curtis Fuller “Oscalypso”
One catalogue number below the Blue Note “Holy Grail” 1568 Hank Mobley sits this first record by a twenty three year old almost unknown trombone player from Detroit, Curtis Fuller, 1567 “The Opener”. Blue Note proprietor Alfred Lion was sufficiently impressed by Fuller to requisition an A-list of supporting musicians, consisting of Hank Mobley (ts) and Bobby Timmons (p) Paul Chambers (b) and Art Taylor (d). No “ordinary” line up.
According to the liner notes, apart from talent, Fuller also had an edge not available to everyone. His army sergeant during his term of military service was none other than Cannonball Adderley. The American military and it’s marching bands must have been a hothouse for young jazz talent, an unexpectedly beneficial bi-product of the business of war.
The pressing belies its humble origins, Division of United Artists (1970-3). Suprisingly in mono for this late date, the pressing is a cracker, with resonant cymbal strikes, and throaty tenor rich enough to be Sonny Rollins. Chambers walking bass is firm and taut. Another store in London’s Notting Hill has an original pressing of 1567, the real deal, asking £600 compared to this one priced at £25. So for today, “Cheap is Good”.
The killer track is “Oscalypso”, written by Oscar Pettiford. Out of character for the heydey of Bop, dark harmonies, odd time signature and edgy bass pattern with ringing cymbal strikes carry the soloists in a very satisfying journey through “not quite Calypso”. The musical performance held me rivetted in my seat, and rushing to play it again.
I thought I didn’t like jazz trombone, and once again proved wrong, and not for the first time (last time it was Benny Green). My navigational map of “likes and dislikes” continues to prove a poor companion in the search for good music. I really must put it out of its’ misery.