Sad news from the States: the great Curtis Fuller has died. He was 86. No cause of death has been reported. US jazz magazine Jazz Times tweeted that the trombone icon passed away on Saturday and there are many tributes to Fuller on social media.
A towering figure in jazz, a huge influence still in modern-mainstream jazz circles, Fuller appeared on a long list of deeply revered albums including most notably John Coltrane classic Blue Train and was the longest survivor of the band (collectively Trane, Lee Morgan, CF, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones) who recorded the album in 1957 and that Blue Note released the following year. The Detroiter was also on Art Blakey classic Ugetsu (1963) and Hank Mobley's A Caddy for Daddy (released in 1967) to name but a few.
Fuller was from Detroit of Jamaican descent. He was raised in an orphanage and started playing trombone when he was 16. He went to school with Paul Chambers, later of the First Great Miles Davis Quintet also on Blue Train and Kind of Blue, and Donald Byrd. After serving in the US army Fuller joined Yusef Lateef’s quintet and was early-on inspired by J.J. Johnson, Jimmy Cleveland, Bob Brookmeyer and Urbie Green.
Fuller made his first albums as a leader for Prestige and was spotted by Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records who featured him on records by Sonny Clark and John Coltrane including the classic Blue Train. They made jazz history together.
Also later a member of the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet and very notably the Jazz Messengers Fuller recorded his own records as a leader for such labels as Impulse and in the 1970s at the top of the big band tree he toured with the Count Basie band and also led Giant Bones with another trombone legend Kai Winding. Fuller became an NEA Jazz Master, the highest honour in US jazz, in 2007.