September 2005

Curtis Fuller and Marcus Belgrave
presented by Nightlife Jazz Tour
September 24, 2005Isabel Bader TheatreToronto
Passing It On
by David Fujino
Curtis Fuller stomped off the tempo with his right foot. "The Clan" — 'the other clan', he joked — was a one-note bass drone that got the rhythm section burning and prepared the way for the chanting theme statement from the front line of Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, and young firebrand Quamon Fowler on tenor saxophone.

Drummer Joe Poole's sense of detail and energetic precision, never mind an evening's worth of forward moving conversations with acoustic bassist Artie Roth, clearly delighted Mark Eisenman, the occasionally bemused helmsman at the piano, and definitely kept the audience involved for most of the near three-hour long concert at the acoustically-friendly Isabel Bader Theatre.

Before Intermission, two guest women artists got to shine, as young Jessie Ross delivered a haunting vocal interpretation of "Autumn Leaves" (the tenor obbligatos of Quamon Fowler emphasized the distinct blue tinge in these autumn leaves), and right before the band blew on the rousing Juan Tizol classic, "Caravan", the cries and glories of Motown song were physicalized by (Sister) Joanne I'll call her, in glowing orange African dress, as she delivered an emotionally wrought performance.

It's worth mentioning that throughout the concert, Belgrave and Fuller kept their own solos to a modest 2 or 3 choruses while encouraging the others to solo at greater length. To the audience's satisfaction, Quamon Fowler stretched out and energized the night with his inner burrowing tenor on such spotlight tunes like "Arabia", and "Inner Urge", the turbulent Joe Henderson tune. It was just another example of the 'you first' mentorship attitude of Belgrave and Fuller towards talented younger musicians.

Freddie Hubbard's sprightly jazz waltz, "Up Jumped Spring" — with the release section written by Fuller — revealed the two nominal leaders to be in good soloing form, with Fuller cleverly quoting "Greensleeves" and firmly centred Belgrave shifting suddenly into the upper register in thrilling subconscious spurts.

Belgrave's stage persona is all smiles and positive go-ahead energy. Fuller, the noted raconteur, told of his early days raised in an orphanage in Detroit, where he was one of two or three 'ethnic kids' in a body of three hundred or so white children. He was, he noted with a small smile, quite an 'introvert' before music found him.

Curtis Fuller
We left the theatre that night, happy with the music and gladdened by the relaxed and friendly demeanour of Fuller and Belgrave. They humanized the label, 'famous jazz musicians'. Thanks for the humanity, guys.
Curtis Fuller — trombone
Marcus Belgrave — trumpet
Mark Eisenman — piano
Joe Poole — drums
Artie Roth — Bass
Quamon Fowler — tenor sax
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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