Blues-Ette

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Curtis Fuller Quintet
LABELS: Savoy
WORKS: Curtis Fuller Quintet
PERFORMER: Curtis Fuller (tb); Benny Golson (ts); Tommy Flanagan (p); Jimmy Garrison (b); Al Harewood (d)
CATALOGUE NO: SV-0127

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When Nippon-Columbia acquired the rights to the Savoy label they began systematically reissuing many of the historic albums on CD, complete with a facsimile album cover. One of the most celebrated labels in jazz, Savoy is famous for the Charlie Parker masterpieces, many important Gillespie tracks, some of Fats Navarro’s finest work and countless semi-classics of the late 1940s and 1950s.

Until now the label has had a haphazard history of reissue, but now around 100 sides have been released on CD in the UK, the packaging excellent, and the remastered sound beyond reproach. Competitively priced, they are a treasure trove, not least for reissues by Ray McKinley (with Eddie Sauter arrangements), Boyd Raeburn, Red Norvo, Jackie and Roy with Charlie Ventura and lastly Blues-ette by the Curtis Fuller Quintet, one of the best-known of all the Savoy albums.

The unusually mellow sound of the trombone/tenor front line conceals the steely strength of the soloists. It seems inconceivable that Golson’s sound-sheet arpeggios on this album did not influence John Coltrane. Fuller himself, who also recorded under his own name for Blue Note and Prestige as well as with Bud Powell, Clifford Jordan and Coltrane was, next to JJ Johnson, the most highly regarded trombonist in bop.

Somehow he has got lost in the shuffle of styles between the 1950s and the present. 34 years later the group was reconvened (with Ray Drummond replacing the late Jimmy Garrison) under a relaunched Savoy Jazz label for Blues-ette Part II, and Fuller sounds better than ever. His tone is so polished you can almost see your reflection in it.

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Golson is less frenetic, more considered and Tommy Flanagan on both albums has the elegance and poise of a master. Only the title track and the famous ‘Five Spot After Dark’ are duplicated on these two albums of timeless, perfectly executed jazz. Stuart Nicholson