Friday, October 12, 2012

Album Review: “Angelic Warrior” Tia Fuller


Angelic Warrior
  • Audio CD (September 25, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012 Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Mack Avenue ASIN: B008SVRTZC In-Print Editions: MP3 Music

After five years in Beyoncé's band, the pop diva's attention to detail in the studio rubbed off on Fuller.  And as the Assistant Musical Director for Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society touring band, Fuller applies her pop and jazz chops on behalf of some of the hottest artists in music today.

This is Fuller’s third album as a leader and for those who have listen to her first two, you’ll get something different and hear a new lineup. On her two previous albums, she shared the front line with trumpet, which was more a ‘standard’ jazz presentation. Here, she brings in electric bassist extraordinaire, John Patitucci on piccolo bass. For the uninitiated, the piccolo bass can easily be mistaken for guitar. By bringing in electric bass to compliment the usual jazz ensemble, we get a melodic AND harmonic sound. Patitucci is a virtuoso, and has made his home both in fusion and jazz and has lent his creativity to pop stars as a session man as well, having backed Carly Simon, Was Not Was, Bon Jovi, and even B.B. King. It’s really an interesting sound as you still have Mimi Jones on the acoustic bass (and Patitucci on acoustic on one track). This approach can be heard to great effect on the opening track, “Royston Rumble” where he plays both melody and bass lines.

“Royston Rumble” Tia Fuller from the album “Angelic Warrior 9/2012

By the way, before you go looking for Royston on the map, you’re looking in the wrong place. Fuller's sister Shamie Royston, and her brother-in-law Rudy Royston are the tunes inspiration. They fill the piano and drum chairs on the album.  Fuller calls the opening part of the song a "beautiful duel."

On Angelic Warrior, Fuller makes an aesthetic statement that's fully her own. The album celebrates the peaceful demeanor of the 'angel' and the drive and determination of the 'warrior' spirit within. Fuller says, "While writing this album, I was balancing different aspects in my life and career...trying to pull from the 'warrior' energy, while remaining graceful in my spirit.”

While the album is definitely jazz, ranging from straight ahead to bop to Avant-garde , there are some sweet pop/rock touches. The album's third track, "Angelic Warrior" is inspired by elements of Terri Lyne Carrington's GRAMMY® Award- winning recording, The Mosaic Project and the Beatles' "Blackbird." Another pop inspired gem is "Tailor Made"  a rock-out backbeat tune Fuller penned for lifelong friend, Ed Legin. "We always talk about how you have to tailor-make your life for you. He loves R&B from the '70s." What better way to pay nostalgic homage to R&B than with a head-bopping groove inspired by another good friend, Esperanza Spalding and her song "Winter Sun."

Another notable track is "Ralphie's Groove," a sultry song with a sexy beat derived from Drummer Ralph Peterson's "Surrender," itself inspired by a creative synthesis of Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana" and Tony Williams' "Sister Cheryl."

In The Studio The Making Of “Angelic Warrior”
One of the quieter songs on the album is "Lil' Les," which isn’t just a clever title but a clever concept. Composed at the request of Leslie Browder, it is a calming song that evokes the innocence of a children's tune. Fuller conceived it for Browder's then-unborn child, Lesleigh Marie Browder.

Another tune I was interested in hearing was  "Body and Soul". I’m always intrigued to hear how new, young jazz artists interpret the great classic tunes. The listener will be glad to hear Fuller has a lot of respect for the history of the music and has done her homework. Fuller says,” My father would call for "Body and Soul" when we'd gig together back in Colorado”, her birthplace. "Here I'm paying homage to my mom and dad, the body and soul of the family. I wanted to incorporate a solid bass line to represent my father [bassist Fred Fuller] and feature master vocalist, Dianne Reeves, to celebrate my mother [vocalist Ethiopia Fuller]. And what a treat it is to hear one of my all time favorite jazz vocalists, Dianne Reeves.

Fuller's aesthetic statement on Angelic Warrior is grounded in a jazz mode of expression that embraces both the classic and the contemporary. As Carrington says, “She plays with the kind of aggression that men do. My dad says, Tia's a woman playing that horn like it's supposed to be played.” With her services required by stars such as Ralph Peterson, Jr. and Esperanza Spalding to Terri Lyne Carrington and Beyonce, Fuller’s own star is clearly on the rise among the cadre of young jazz musicians who, with respect for jazz traditions, are fusing the old with the new, unafraid of genre boundaries, and renewing the art form in ways it was growing desperate for.


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Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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