Curtis Fuller

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Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller.jpg
Background information
Birth nameCurtis DuBois Fuller
Born(1932-12-15)December 15, 1932
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedMay 8, 2021(2021-05-08) (aged 86) [1]
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, educator
Instruments Trombone
Years active1953–2021
Labels Blue Note, Prestige, Savory, Impulse!, Epic, Atlantic

Curtis DuBois Fuller(December 15, 1932 May 8, 2021) [1] was an American jazz trombonist. He was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and contributed to many classic jazz recordings. [2]


Early life

Fuller was born in Detroit on December 15, 1932. His father had emigrated from Jamaica and worked in a Ford automobile factory, but he died from tuberculosis before his son was born. His mother, who had moved north from Atlanta, died when he was 9. He spent several years in an orphanage run by Jesuits. [1] He developed a passion for jazz after one of the nuns there brought him to see Illinois Jacquet and his band perform, with J. J. Johnson on trombone. [3]

Fuller attended a public school in his hometown, together with Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, Tommy Flanagan, Thad Jones, and Milt Jackson. [4] There, he took up the trombone when he was sixteen, [5] after attempting the violin and with the saxophone (his next choice) being unavailable. He studied under Johnson and Elmer James. [4]


Fuller joined the US Army in 1953 to fight in the Korean War. He served until 1955, and played in a band with Chambers and brothers Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Upon his return from military service, Fuller joined the quintet of Yusef Lateef, another Detroit musician. The quintet moved to New York in 1957, and Fuller recorded his first sessions as a leader with Prestige. [3] [4]

Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records first heard Fuller playing with Miles Davis in the late 1950s, and the trombonist led four dates for Blue Note, [3] though one of these, an album with Slide Hampton, was not issued for many years. [6] Lion featured him as a sideman on record dates led by Sonny Clark ( Dial "S" for Sonny , Sonny's Crib ) and John Coltrane ( Blue Train ). [7] Other sideman appearances over the next decade included work on albums under the leadership of Bud Powell, Jimmy Smith, Wayne Shorter, [3] Lee Morgan and Joe Henderson (a former roommate at Wayne State University in 1956). [5] [8]

Fuller was also the first trombonist to be a member of the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, later becoming the sixth man in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1961, staying with Blakey until 1965. [7] [3] In the early 1960s, Fuller recorded two albums as a leader for Impulse! Records, having also recorded for Savoy Records, United Artists, and Epic after his obligations to Blue Note had ended. [3] [8] In the late 1960s, he was part of Dizzy Gillespie's band that also featured Foster Elliott. Fuller went on to tour with Count Basie and also reunited with Blakey and Golson. [3]

Later life

Fuller married Catherine Rose Driscoll in 1980. She died of lung cancer in 2010; Fuller recorded his album The Story of Cathy & Me (2011) as a tribute. [9]

Fuller was granted an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music in 1999. [10] Eight years later, he was honored as an NEA Jazz Master. [3] He continued to perform and record, and was a faculty member of the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) School of Jazz Studies (SJS). [11] On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Fuller among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [12]

Fuller died on May 8, 2021, at the age of 88. Throughout his life, Fuller was reported to have been born in 1934; he had added two years to his age at 17 in part to gain work. [1]


As leader

As sideman

With Count Basie

With Dave Bailey

With Art Blakey

With John Coltrane

With Buddy DeFranco

With Kenny Dorham

With Art Farmer

With Joe Farnsworth

With Benny Golson

With Lionel Hampton

With Jimmy Heath

With Quincy Jones

With Yusef Lateef

With Hank Mobley

With Woody Shaw

With Jimmy Smith

With others

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