Esteemed Jazz Pianist-Vocalist Champian Fulton Presents Her Marvelous, New Live Record Meet Me at Birdland, due out April 7, 2023
Swing pulses through New York-based jazz vocalist and pianist Champian Fulton’s veins. Since her arrival on the scene in 2003, Fulton has been lauded for her poise and allure. A live Champian Fulton performance ensures a radiant ambiance pronounced by the multi-talent’s clarion vocals and lush keys. Birdland Jazz Club was witness to this glory in September of 2022, when Fulton enjoyed a four-night stint without repeating a single tune, all while documenting what would become her latest live album. Those tapes yielded the polished Meet Me at Birdland, Fulton’s sixteenth album as a leader, due out April 7, 2023.
In 2015, Scott Yanow wrote that Fulton “grows in stature with each recording,” after the release of her prized date, Change Partners. Now a veteran on the scene, this seasoned jazz messenger presents a collection of sophisticated standards sprinkled with one prolific instrumental original on her cultivated new offering. Breathing charm into the turn of each lyrical and instrumental phrase, Fulton soars in the company of bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer Fukushi Tainaka.
Suspending listeners into the simulation of a live show, Meet Me at Birdland opens with an introduction from Birdland club owner Gianni Valenti as he welcomes and thanks the audience for supporting live music. Fulton is bubbling from the beginning on “Too Marvelous for Words,” a melodic route that demands and effectively serves dexterity from an intuitive rhythm section.
Optimism is stamped across Fulton’s repertoire, something she considers essential to her purpose as an artist. This uplifting spirit culminates on the original “Happy Camper,” a scintillating instrumental and deft showcase of rhythmic acuity. Tainaka enjoys a particularly brilliant episode to round off the advancing melodic navigation.
While Fulton is full of cheer and known for it, it’s on heartfelt tunes such as “It’s Been A Long Long Time” where she so earnestly unveils her intimidation factor—at once, she narrates two points of view as a singer and pianist, both without sacrifice. The 1935 tune “Every Now and Then” is another example, where Fulton bathes in slower tempos while her piano prowess asserts itself as singular rather than complementary to her voice. “I Didn’t Mean A Word I Said” is yet another prime example of Fulton’s piano ingenuity, and she recognizes it with a humble laugh at the sound of the audience’s applause. Listeners will naturally sympathize with the gradual velocity on her commanding arrangement of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” considering the timely mid-season delivery of Meet Me at Birdland.
Fulton’s devotion to early jazz tradition is vividly transparent on “Evenin’”. The savory and playful track boasts elongated solos from each band member as they recreate the improvisational bebop style of Kansas City jazz of the 1930s.
Count Basie, Erroll Garner, Fats Waller and Clark Terry are a few of her musical heroes, whom she pays homage to throughout Meet Me at Birdland on her rendition of Phineas Newborn’s instrumental “Theme for Basie,” as well as the blues-infused “I Don’t Care.” In the album liner notes, GRAMMY® Award-winning scholar Ricky Riccardi cites Fulton as one of few living pianists capable of evoking Erroll Garner affectionately.
The savvy performer reinvents the breathtaking standard “I’ve Got a Crush on You” with a fresh intimacy, while the waltz “Just Friends” inevitably swings at times. As she introduces the traditional “I Only Have Eyes For You” at the finale, Fulton is cheeky in her efforts to invite the audience back tomorrow. “Every set is totally different..we never know what’s going to happen,” an ironic forward to a tune with a definitive title, which she dutifully commits every end of her vocal range to. Though at this point, no matter what makes up Fulton’s phrase, we can’t help but to trust her as we continue to listen and bask in the luminosity of a bright star.
- Welcome to Birdland (0:28)
- Too Marvelous for Words (5:41)
- Every Now & Then (7:42)
- Evenin’ (6:26)
- Theme for Basie (5:51)
- Happy Camper (6:42)
- Just Friends (4:14)
- I Didn’t Mean A Word I Said (3:48)
- I’ve Got A Crush On You (7:16)
- I Don’t Care (9:35)
- Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most (4:43)
- I Only Have Eyes for You (2:45)
- It’s Been A Long Long Time (3:53)