On March 16, Mack Avenue Records released Tia Fuller’s fine sophomore effort, Decisive Steps, a 10-track affair that nicely documents the alto/soprano saxophonist’s continuing maturation.
Says Fuller, “It’s a continuation of Healing Space [her 2007 debut for the label], evolving from a stationary place of healing to steps of action. I’ve been in the mindset of really moving forward to the next level in my life, constantly being in the mindset of greatness, relentless in my pursuit and progressing with purpose by embracing my talents, recognizing my strengths and improving upon my weaknesses … but also in not being afraid of change — stepping forward in faith and not in fear.”
Fuller’s latest outing features drummer Kim Thompson; bassist Miriam Sullivan; Fuller’s sister, Shamie Royston, on piano and Fender Rhodes; special guests, trumpeter Sean Jones and bassist Christian McBride (both Mack Avenue label mates); vibraphonist Warren Wolf; and tap dancer Maurice Chestnut.
Fuller’s jazz-rooted, genre-crossing artistry is the result of an arts-filled childhood. She was born in Aurora, Colorado, to musician parents, bassist Fred and singer Elthopia, who both taught in the Denver Public School District. She grew up listening to Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan and Charlie Parker. She started playing classical piano at the age of 3, inspired by her older sister, Shamie, and studied the instrument for 10 years. She started playing the flute at the age of 9 and began playing the saxophone, deepening her interest in middle school. In 1998, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Spelman College in Atlanta (where she studied with the great saxophonist/educator Joe Jennings) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. Two years later, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a Master of Music degree, Jazz Pedagogy and Performance.
Eventually Fuller moved to New York, relocating to nearby Jersey City, arriving two days before September 11, 2001. Undaunted by the terrible times of that period, she forged ahead and played and recorded with some of jazz’s brightest stars, including the Duke Ellington Big Band, Nancy Wilson, T.S. Monk, Don Byron, Wycliffe Gordon, Jon Faddis, Rufus Reid, Jimmy Heath, Gerald Wilson, Sean Jones and Don Braden. Then, on June 17, 2006, she was hired by Beyoncé and, as they say, the rest is history.
Which brings us to Decisive Steps, Fuller’s latest sonic testament to her ever upward-and-evolving evolution. “The Beyoncé gig has helped me to really appreciate the artistry and freedom that we have in jazz,” Fuller says. “Playing in jazz settings helps me to appreciate and integrate what we’re doing with Beyoncé. Playing in front of 16 thousand people or 60 people, it’s the same, because it’s all about people, transferring energy, uplifting and encouraging spirits and sharing the love of music. There’s a common thread between the two, and they enhance each other. I think musicians are taking a step forward on both sides. We’re moving forward with combining all forms, and more people are accepting that concept, because it’s all inter-connected.”
For more information, go to www.tiafuller.com.
Upcoming Tia Full Quartet tour dates in support of Decisive Steps:
March 26: CD Release Party, Cecil’s Jazz Club, West Orange, New Jersey
April 3: Candlelight Lounge, Trenton, New Jersey
April 15-16: Dazzle Jazz Club, Denver, Colorado
May 1: Jazz Vespers @Bethany Baptist Church, Newark, New Jersey
May 10: CD Release Party, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, New York, New York
June 12: Central PA Friends of Jazz, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania