Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Scene (Jazz Around Town)
Keyboardist Bill Fulton led a very versatile band at La Ve Lee (4/26/05). His septet featured trumpeter Anne King, trombonist Jacques Voyemant, altoist Rick Rossi, the great tenor-saxophonist Ernie Watts, electric bassist Larry Steen, and drummer David Derge. The group was flexible enough to sound like a little big band and could also switch to “R&B-ish” fusion when it fit the song. Fulton’s arrangements and electric piano gave the band it’s own distinctive personality on several originals (including “The Road Home” and the gospel-ish “New Religion”), Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia,” and an unusual up-tempo version of “‘Round Midnight.” Jeff Robinson guested for a couple soulful vocals on Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” and “Only so Much Oil.” Ranging from straight-ahead jazz to funky jazz, the Bill Fulton Septet put on a well-paced program and showed that they are well worth checking out.
Kirk Silsbee, ValleyBeat:
The Bill Fulton Band is known as a fusion outfit but you´ll hear a lot of bebop complexities in its book. The precision horn charts and updated takes on jazz standards like “´Round Midnight” and “There´ll Never Be Another You” attract guests like Ernie Watts from time to time. The Fultonites land at La Ve Lee Tuesday.
Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
The bowls are brimming with jazz this year. The Hollywood Bowl and the Playboy Jazz Festival (arriving June 11 and 12) have been an inseparable combination for nearly three decades. Now jazz has arrived at the Rose Bowl as well, as the annual Playboy Jazz free Memorial weekend programs moved into the venerable sports venue.
The three-day event was, according to its sponsors, the first live jazz played at the Rose Bowl. Sunday’s program, produced in conjunction with Pasadena Summer Fest, provided an appropriate collection of sounds to celebrate the arrival of the improvisational musical art at a location that has seen plenty of more physical improvisation in 80-plus years of football. Although the Playboy Pasadena lineups, formerly held in the city’s Central Park, usually emphasized jazz diversity rather than straight-ahead, mainstream jazz, Sunday’s schedule (like most of the weekend) favored imaginative playing over gimmicky grooves.
After an opening set by the Chatsworth High School Jazz Band, the CJS Quintet – featuring tenor saxophonist chuck Johnson and trumpeter/Flugelhorn-ist James Smith – romped through a program of hard-driving bebop leavened with soulful blues.
Kristen Korb, who followed, managed the thorny task of singing gracefully while playing upright bass, and doing the latter in a fashion recalling the warm sound and well-chosen notes characteristic of her mentor, Ray Brown.
Odara, a premier Los Angeles Afro-Cuban band, added mid-afternoon dance rhythms to the programming mix, tempting crowd members to try their best salsa steps at the fringes of the grass field. Best of all, Odara’s viscerally rhythmic music was richly enhanced by he beautifully crafted arrangements if Guillermo Cespedes.
Bill Fulton’s mini-big band was bright, brassy, and energetic and veteran saxophonist Ronnie Laws concluded the day with his patented brand of highflying improvisation and irresistible, body-moving rhythms.
Playboy Jazz and the Pasadena Summer Fest reportedly drew more than 100,000 visitors over the long weekend. But there was room for many more in the giant stadium. and one wonders whether the door has now been opened for a new kind of expansive, big-venue, community-friendly jazz event reflecting the colorful, multi-everything character of Souther California.
Paula Edelstein, Sounds of Timeless Jazz
Pasadena Summer Fest: Born in Pasadena But Enjoyed By All! Each year, over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, The Pasadena Summer Fest serves the community of Pasadena and works on several levels by inviting an array of musicians, artists, and private vendors to build sales, develop networks and to find collaborators. This year, there was such a big sense of excitement. The event had moved to the Rose Bowl! Even though this was the first time the five great festivals in one had been held at the Rose Bowl, people knew where they were going and they had a purpose. “I´m going to hear some great jazz on the Playboy Jazz Stage,” stated one jazz lover as she headed through the tunnel that led to the field. “We´re here to enjoy the Fun Zone,” said one very well organized mom, her arms filled with children. “She wants to join the WNBA” stated another energetic grandmother as she watched her granddaughter shoot hoops in the Sports Zone.
Saturday’s top acts – Clairdee, Victor Fields and Jeff Kashiwa offered their great brands of jazz and not only introduced songs from their latest CDs – MUSIC MOVES, VICTOR and PEACE OF MIND respectively, they involved listeners on several levels with their unique approaches to improvisation, and musical intuition.
Sunday’s top acts – Odara, Kristin Korb, Bill Fulton Band and Ronnie Laws brought their creative sets full circle with several styles of jazz that ranged from Latin, Great American Songbook vocals, Big Band and Free/bop jazz fusion.
Whether you were in the ideal spot for catching some sun while enjoying the great jazz on the Playboy Jazz stage, or connecting with people from other cultures in and around the Family Fun Fest Entertainment Stage, indulging your senses and culinary palette while sampling the international cuisines at A Taste of Summer, or adding art and jewelry to your collections offered by vendors from the Summer Art Fest, Pasadena Summer Fest had something for everyone. Visit the site at www.pasadenasummerfest.com (link expired) for information on next year’s event.
Gloria Ellis, jazzreview.com
Pasadena Summer Fest proves to be one of the best free three day jazz festival in Southern California. On Memorial Day weekend, May 28 thru May 30, 2005, many fans gathered in the spacious Rose Bowl for a great weekend of jazz. There was plenty of room, great food, lots to drink, and many arts and crafts.
The Pasadena Summer Fest continues to grow with each passing year. Children, parents, and grand parents alike enjoy all the festivities on the grounds of the Rose Bowl. Family Fun Zone, Sports Zone, and Art Fest are back again this year with rides, music, art, and sports personalities.
Free jazz for everyone from 11:00am to 8:00pm with a great lineup for the entire weekend — John Muir High School Jazz Band started things off, next Trio-Gonzalo with his swing jazz style, and then The Hi Fi Quintet performed some great jazz for the fans. Oskas Cartaya & Enclave also gave the audience a taste of real jazz funk.
Victor Fields and Clairdee, (each great jazz vocalist in their own right) what a treat to have them both on stage at once! Then there was Henry Franklin, a well-known jazz bassist with a flare for style. Smooth Jazz saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa & the Coastal Access Band closed out the first day with a bit of tasteful smoothness that the audience loved and appreciated.
For the second day of the jazz festival, Chatsworth High School Jazz Band performed first with some wonderful tunes, followed by CJS Quintet bringing to the stage be-bop and straight -ahead jazz. Another marvelous artist was upright jazz bassist Kristin Korb. A change of pace came from Odara, an African – Cuban Folklore group, lead by Lazaro Galarraga and Guillermo Cespedes. Keyboardist Bill Fulton and his band brought us back to jazz. Sunday closed out with alto/soprano saxophonist Ronnie Laws and his artistic jazz fusion.
The last and final day of this free and amazing festival starts with Eagle Rock High School Jazz Band and rolls right along with Luis Conte master percussion performing is such styles as Afro-Latin, Latin, and Afro-Cuban. Sandy Graham pleased the audience with her wondrous vocals while jazz pianist, Taylor Eigst, dazzled the audience with his style of play. Tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard had the fans dancing in the aisles as he intrigued his fans with a great performance. Once again, the time has come, the show must end, and all too soon, Smooth Jazz guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver closed out the three-day weekend with a bang!
Bob Agnew, LA Jazz Scene
While they wish they could, these musicians can’t make a living playing in the clubs. Their reward is the joy they get in doing it. For example, not so long ago (11/12/03) at Borders Books in Thousand Oaks (CA), pianist-composer-arranger Bill Fulton made an appearance with his septet. A really tight, hard-playing little band that even die-hard big band listeners could enjoy. In the groove with leader Fulton was trombonist Nick Lane, Anne King on trumpet and flugelhorn, Glen Berger on tenor saxophone, Rick Rossi on alto sax, Adam Cohen at the bass and Dave Derge at the drums. With a tempo range from fast to moderate, the band did such tunes as “Somewhere in September,” “The Land That Time Forgot,” “Bolivia,” “Girl of the Moment,” and “In Your Face.” It was a mix of originals and otherwise, and a good combination as might be expected of Fulton, who is also a composer-arranger in one of the animating studios.
Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
During this infectious set (“Time”), Bill Fulton switches quite comfortably between electric and acoustic keyboards and between fusion and soulful straightahead jazz. Altoist Brian Scanlon (doubling on tenor) and soprano-saxophonist Tom Buckner make good use of their solo space and Carl Saunders takes a guest flugelhorn solo on “In Your Dreams.” Fulton’s original songs are consistently catchy, the musicianship of his sidemen is very high and the music makes one feel good without being simplistic. This accessible and expertly constructed set is well worth checking out.
Lori Barth, The SCORE (The Society of Composers & Lyricists)
Composer Bill Fulton wrote, arranged, and orchestrated this new CD (“Time”) for Rhombus Records. These high energy original compositions have some wonderful moments. Fulton’s horn arranging especially stands out as one who really understands the horn section and what to do with them on jazz tunes. Good listen if you like the orchestrated jazz ensemble sound.
Bob Snyder (jazz Programmer), WRST-FM 90.3 (Oshkosh, WI)
Here is our March playlist [sent to Rhombus Records 3/22/03] with your latest release [“Time” – Rhombus Records] set for play. There aren’t too many labels taking a chance on big bands (sic) these days. This one is worth it. I know it’s important for a new leader to show off his chops. But a standard or a big band tune would help new listeners determine what this band is all about. This is very contemporary city music. Not a soundtrack, but everything comes from someplace. An artist can’t keep it out. The synthesizer is used very well to help create an identity. Thanks for all your support. We look forward to your next release.
Todd S. Jenkins, allaboutjazz.com
Keyboardist, composer and arranger Bill Fulton has achieved an amazing coup for contemporary jazz with Time. He has successfully broken the curse that has hung over jazz keyboards since the early 1980s, using excellent arrangements and a tight group of performers to give these combo tracks the sense of a larger ensemble. Bright production and a joyously expansive sound, enhanced by his judicious application of keyboard tones, make Time one of the best contemporary jazz albums in recent memory.
Fulton’s keyboard parts and band charts are so smartly organized, starting with the instantly engaging “The Land That Time Forgot”, these could easily be expanded into highly entertaining big-band arrangements. His compositions are varied and well-constructed, from the pensive “Maple St.” (which switches between 4/4 and 3/4) to the acoustic ballad “Anthem” and holy-rollin’ gospel of “New Religion”, a tune which could truly make the angels sing.
The sidemen are wisely selected and, though not very well-known for now, show considerable promise. Several different groupings of players appear, since not all the tracks were recorded in the same studio. Bassist David Enos and drummer Jason Harnell form an especially good rhythm team, balancing creativity and propulsion on tracks like “Time Squared”. Veteran hornman Carl Saunders contributes a marvelous flugelhorn guest spot on “In Your Dreams”, and Brian Scanlon’s bittersweet soprano sax aptly matches Fulton’s lush piano on “Anthem”.
All in all, this album represents what the state of contemporary jazz should be; nay, what it should have been for a long, long time. An absolutely magical achievement by an immensely talented performer and writer.
Jim Santella, LA Jazz Scene
Contemporary jazz and a small band make great music when they’re given enough freedom to enjoy what’s going on. For his first solo recording session Bill Fulton composed all ten smooth songs and plays keyboard. He’s surrounded himself with the support of several strong performance units that include: saxophonist Tom Buckner, electric bassist Adam Cohen, drummer Kendall Kay, saxophonist Brian Scanlon, trumpeter Lee Thornburg, saxophonist Mike Nelson, and trumpeter Carl Saunders. Fulton’s perky spontaneity breathes fire into innovative pieces such as “Secrets” and “Time Squared.” Ballads such as “Anthem” and “In Your Dreams,” provide lyrical themes that remain consistently fresh. The album’s high point comes about through “New Religion” as Fulton applies his swinging piano magic to a timeless source of inspiration. It’s New Orleans and a gospel revival rolled into one basket. Fred Horn and Mike McGuffey join Fulton for this one on alto and trumpet respectively, while Scanlon returns for a soul-stirring romp. He, Saunders, and Fulton turn “In Your Dreams” into a lovely ideal of what can be accomplished when each of the artists feels this free to express.