Liner Note Authors: Margo Guryan; Nat Hentoff.
Photographers: Ted Russell; Burt Goldblatt.
This budget two-fer in Impulse's 2011 reissue series offers trombonist Curtis Fuller's first two releases for the label, both recorded in 1961; they are his 18th and 19th overall. The first, Soul Trombone, recorded in November, is aptly titled and places Fuller as the leader of a stellar band that includes pianist Cedar Walton, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, Granville T. Hogan on drums, and either Jimmy Cobb or Jymie Merritt on bass. Of the six track on the set, three are originals, and they include the stellar hard bop offering "The Clan," the swinging "Newdles," and the breezy "Ladies Night." Two standard ballads here, "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," and Stan Getz's arrangement of "Dear Old Stockholm," are also beautifully delivered. On this date, Fuller allowed all of his sidemen to stretch out and engage with one another generously. Cabin in the Sky is an entirely different kind of outing, and almost experimental -- though not in the avant-garde sense -- with Fuller leading a pair of different large bands that include a full string section arranged by Harry Lookofsky and conducted by Manny Albam. This date relies heavily (but not exclusively) on the tunes of Vernon Duke and John Latouche. The emphasis here is on texture, color, and harmony, but as a result, some of Fuller's authority is overshadowed by the elaborate and restrictive arrangements. That said, this set is far from uninteresting, and given the price tag, irresistible. Some of the players on this date include Bob Brookmeyer, Kai Winding, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, and Osie Johnson. Standouts include non string-arranged tracks such as "Honey in the Honeycomb" and "Savannah." ~ Thom Jurek