On September 15th, 1957, rising jazz stars Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller joined John Coltrane and his Miles Davis bandmates’ Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, along with Kenny Drew for one day in the studio. Magic was made, and we have those special 5 tracks (and alternate takes) that comprise Coltrane’s album “Blue Train” here to inspire us for all time.
Despite powerful turns from everyone throughout the recording, trombonist Curtis Fuller’s improvisation on the title track bears special attention. The melody features an iconic riff placing the “call” with the rhythm section responding in each occasion. It is simple, powerful, and primordial- the essence of the music. At a fresh 24 years of age, Curtis Fuller honors this composition with deep thematic reverence, development, and most importantly, pacing. This mature use of phrasing is a hallmark of his style, and one of the most difficult aspects of jazz improvisation to master, but when developed, it ensures the improviser is listening, breathing, and applying patience to this creative craft. This is how the great stories in music are born!
This solo had a major impact on my life. I heard it when I was 17, and switched my major instrument to trombone (from saxophone)the very next day. His role on this album taught me how to play, and dive deeply into the music. It’s only natural that I use this in my own teaching, and it always has a beneficial role in the development of my students’ style, vocabulary, articulation, and narrative sense.
Here are nearly 40 of my students across 10 states playing their parts on this socially-distanced arrangement, organized and finished over a period of 2 weeks.
Long live the music and spirit of jazz trombone master Curtis Fuller!
-Submitted by Mr. Michael Dease