Curtis Fuller: Soul Trombone (1961) Impulse (+ trombone poll)


Selection : The Clan


Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Curtis Fuller (trombone) Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone) Cedar Walton (piano) Jymie Merritt (bass) Jimmy Cobb or GT Hogan (drums) recorded Capitol Studios, NYC, November 16 – 17, 1961, engineer: Frank Abbey.

Curtis Fuller pocket-bio

Fuller’s career was nothing less than meteoric. Eight months after arriving in New York, age 22, he  had made six albums as leader and appeared on  fifteen others, including the thrilling trombone voice on Coltrane’s Blue Train . Think of those iconic opening notes  – da da did da daaa, da doo di da doo…  Impressive for a newly arrived trombonist, a product of raw talent and natural selection in the fiercely competitive New York jazz scene of the late Fifties.

“Curtis Fuller belongs to a select circle … who make the trombone sound fluid and inviting rather than awkward. His ability to make wide-octave leaps and play whiplash phrases in a relaxed, casual manner is a testament to his skill”.    (Fuller’s Blue Note artist profile)

In 1960 Fuller was drafted into The Jazztet with Art Farmer but  left shortly after and in 1961, added the first trombone to the line up of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, with whom he stayed until 1965. The second half of the decade was spent freelancing around New York, adding his trombone to a number of notable Blue Note dates including Joe Henderson’s Mode For Joe and Wayne Shorter’s Schizophrenia.

Fuller eventually  found a secure tenure in music education, and was on the ” still living list” last time I looked.


What does Soul Trombone presage? (bloggers literary tip: presage:  an ill-omen, intuition, an ominous warning of a future occurrence)   “Soul” has changed meaning a lot over recent decades: Soul Music, sequestered by Motown formation-divas and grossly obese vocalists called Barry declaring their lurve; Soul-Jazz, funky hipsters dance vibe involving frequent use of an organ, and of course Soul Food –  good ol’ Southern cooking, making copious use of artery-endangering lard.

Set aside any misgivings about  Death by Trombone , as in Jimmy Smith – Death by Hammond B-3 Organ –  though Fuller appears on one of Smith’s (few) outstanding recordings, The Sermon. Soul Trombone is a pure classic bop sextet session. Freddie Hubbard and Jimmy Heath in the front line, superb rhythm section –  it is effectively a Blue Note session, but for the up and coming new label, Impulse.

As well as being an outstanding fluent soloist in his own right, Fuller’s strength is as bop-team player, enriching the brass front line, adding weight, texture and detail.  His Blue Note albums are all classic pairings, with baritone sax in Bones and Bari (Tate Houston), The Opener (with Hank Mobley) and Volume 3 (with Art Farmer). Great thing with Fuller is you don’t have to be a “trombone fan” as you need to be with some of the players: It’s just the big brother of the trumpet, and the Jazz Clan are a fine bop sextet.

An Amazon Reviewer,commenting on the CD, nominally, added:

“Why my fuss about the A-13 catalog number? This was one of the first released on the amazing black and orange, probably 1961, as this numbering system was only used the first few years of the label. I found it on wax yesterday and it sits on my shelf, spine strong as iron and gloss intact. Hats off to the golden age of vinyl.”

Yeah!! That’s what I like. Stick it to ’em where they least expect it: Evil Silver Disk 0, Vinyl +1.

Vinyl: Impulse A-13

US original Am Par label 1st pressing,  RVG stamp, mono, 162gm vinyl, not for the fastidious collector (GTPOL – greasy thumbprint on label)




The back cover of Impulse gatefolds always seem to me a lost opportunity.


LJC Poll – Your Ten Favourite Trombone players

Hot on the heels of the recent piano poll, seems like an opportunity to slide in a poll on the trombone. It is a field populated with many players I confess I have never heard of, which was the test I applied in selecting the candidates. These are the players I have heard of. This significantly increases the odds of missing out the musician of your choice, and invites hoots of derision from the usual suspects. For shame, LJC, you have left out the great Carletto “Charlie” Cairoli! the Clown Prince of Trombone.  I realise it’s a sort of sport to point out your host’s inadequacy, so get your notable omissions list in early and I’ll add them to the Poll, for the sake of posterity.

Collectors Corner

Source: from a collection sold to a central London record store by a musician – a trombone player, I was told, no surprise there. Many of the titles were saccharin-sweet Hollywood strings and big band arrangements which I expect mean something to a jobbing professional, but alas not to me. This Fuller album was the exception.

I did sample the other Fuller Impulse, Cabin in the Sky, but it was mostly big jazz orchestra arrangements and crackly to boot. Shame to pass up an original Impulse – the exception to the see it buy it philosophy, but I knew I would never play it. Very happy to go home with Soul Trombone.

When I visited the store last week, all the remaining big band titles had sold. Did I do right?

20 thoughts on “Curtis Fuller: Soul Trombone (1961) Impulse (+ trombone poll)

  1. Another vote for the great Grachan Moncur III!
    Not only the most accomplished avant trombonist, but one of the major composers of the avant movement on Blue Note. His pieces on Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond and Destination Out! are amazing.

  2. Trombone! What a splendid idea. I just hope Monchur wins. And btw, a heads-up for all those who might fancy acquainting themselves with one of Grachan Monchur’s wonderful Blue Notes without breaking the bank (not you, LJC: I recall you have an original!) — Heavenly Sweetness, the French reissue label (with which I have no etc etc) is due to reissue GM III’s Some Other Stuff later this month.

    I have bought a couple of Heavenly Sweetness reissues recently, including Jackie McLean’s HIPNOSIS — also featuring Monchur, and a fantastic record, for my money one of Jackie’s best and up there with Monchur’s own EVOLUTION. The Heavenly Sweetness people seem to have done an excellent job on those records I have sampled.

    Oh, and Ray Anderson is missing from the poll. Perhaps not quite in the same league as Charlie Cairoli, although sometimes he doesn’t sound _all_ that different. 🙂

      • I can only go by the ones I have, Andy — Sam Rivers’ A NEW CONCEPTION and the McLean HIPNOSIS — but I found them both to be excellent reissues. Well pressed, good covers, immaculate vinyl. Sadly, the other Sam Rivers the label has done — CONTOURS — seems to be deleted.

    • JJ Inc. is a sensational LP and also one of my favorites. Several other Johnson’s Columbia LPs are worth having – “Blue Trombone,” “Touch of Satin,” “First Place,” and Dial J.J” – but “J. J. Inc.” is my favorite. Most times a clean 6-eye mono or stereo pressing can be had for $10 to $15. That is a steal!


      • Yep, I have several mono and stereo copies. This one has a chance of becoming collectable, not so easy to find. Great record and superb line-up with Hubbard, Jordan and Johnson on the horns, Cedar Walton on piano, Albert Walton on Bass and Tootie Heath on drums

  3. Never particularly rated Curtis that highly until I read and listened to the post on here for The Opener album on Blue Note. Obviously the original vinyl was way out of reach so I picked up the RVG CD which is wonderful to my ears. His ballad playing is sublime. Just wish I could pick up just one of these Impulse! original gatefolds or even the later ABCs – all I have is a Mingus reissue which is okay but a thin vinyl pressing. I did spot one in my local record shop at the weekend but it was a terrible Gabor Szabo album! I have to admit I’m not familiar enough with all these trombonists to make an informed decision I just know that JJ and George Lewis are my top two,

  4. Hey! Just spotted a typo in the poll list: it’s J.J. Johnson. The poll says J.J. Johnston… I guess LJC ends up with the Dunce Hat today 😀

  5. Not an LP I’m familiar with- but by strange coincidence I was listening to Blue Train when your email notification of this post came through yesterday.
    Looks like another record for my wants list. Thanks.

  6. “Cabin In The Sky” is a personal favourite, but it seems to be a session that doesn’t appeal to everyone. Still, for those not categorically opposed to strings in jazz, or orchestral jazz of the gospelly/sanctified variety, it might be a revelation. The music, mostly by Vernon Duke, is exquisite, the arrangements by Manny Albam are full of colour and variety, the band can’t be faulted, and this was the record that made me realise what a fantastic tone Curtis has.

    Willie Wilson is a great, all but forgotten trombonist that could be added to the poll. He’s mostly known for his superb contributions to Duke Pearson’s “Dedication” (Willie was the actual leader of the group, apparently).

    • Thanks for commenting, Freddie. Every time I write I think – oh oh. Cabin in the Sky didn’t do it for me, but as with all these things, it’s my loss. I have added Willie Wilson to the poll. I am the first to admit my ignorance. Its better than letting others point it out.

  7. Curtis has recovered from some health problems and is again performing. He was supposed to perform at a June concert to benefit a Hartford church, but couldn’t make it. The concert was still great because of Ray Drummond, Steve Davis and, especially, Danny Mixon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s