Recording Date: Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 16, 1957
Re-release date (RVG Edition): September 2nd 2008
Availabilty: CD, MP3 download, iTunes
Curtis Fuller burst onto the New York jazz scene in 1957 aged just 23 after starting out in Yusef Lateef's quintet. In June he played at Café Bohemia with Miles Davis and was signed by Alfred Lion who had joined the audience.
"The Opener", as the title suggests, is Curtis Fuller's first album for the Blue Note label. By September that year he had appeared on the seminal John Coltrane album "Blue Train" alongside the great sax player and Lee Morgan.
1957 was a key year for Curtis Fuller. "The Opener" captures all that potential at the key moment of the emergence of one of jazz's greatest exponents of trombone.
The band - Curtis Fuller (trombone), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums) – is more than fit for purpose. Great jazz performances are made by those surrounded by other players who themselves are at a point of greatness and, in 1957, that is exactly where Hank Mobley had arrived.
So, "The Opener", while a vehicle for Curtis Fuller's emergence is at the same time further testament to the greatness of Hank Mobley in this period, an insufficiently recognized truth currently undergoing widespread re-evaluation.
The two Curtis Fuller compositions "Hugore" and "Lizzy's Bounce" are uptempo hard bop in the Jazz Messengers / Horace Silver vein. Though Hank Mobley and Curtis Fuller never recorded together with the Jazz Messengers (by the time Curtis Fuller joined in 1961, Wayne Shorter was in the tenor sax seat), you can hear what they might have sounded like together on these tracks.
Hank Mobley plays with great assurance and inventiveness and is an ideal partner for Curtis Fuller in both the ensemble passages and as they trade solos.
McHugh/ Adamson's "A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening" and Bloom /Mercer's "Here's To My Lady" are ballad standards that give Curtis Fuller's trombone playing centre place and demonstrate his impressive technique.
The two remaining standards – the Gershwin brother's "Soon" and Ocscar Pettiford's "Oscalypso" – are uptempo and feature very fine soloing from both Curtis Fuller and Hank Mobley.
This is a very accomplished album as these two master musicians at a height of their creativity combine and interact.
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Read our review of Art Blakey "Mosaic"
Read our review of Hank Mobley "Quintet"
Read our review of Hank Mobley "Peckin' Time"
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