Release date: August 28, 2020
New York-based pianist and vocalist Champian Fulton is thrilled to announce the release of her highly-anticipated new album Birdsong. A celebration of Charlie Parker’s centennial, Birdsong features saxophone luminary Scott Hamilton along with Fulton’s long-standing quartet made up of bassist Hide Tanaka, drummer Fukushi Tainaka and her father, Stephen Fulton on flugelhorn. Birdsong will be available worldwide on August 28th, 2020, the day before Charlie Parker’s 100th birthday.
The music of Charlie Parker has played an integral part in Champian’s life since the very beginning. Before she was born, her father Stephen wanted to ensure she came into the world accompanied by “the most beautiful music there ever was.” For him, that was Charlie Parker with Strings, the sessions on which producer Norman Granz granted Bird’s longtime wish to record with an orchestra. Stephen made a cassette tape of the recording and played it consistently throughout his wife Susan’s pregnancy. That tape played when Champian was first brought into the world, and it was the first sound the future musician heard when she was placed into her mother’s arms.
As Champian grew as a musician and performer, so did her affinity for Bird and his music. She particularly felt a kinship with Parker due to their shared regional backgrounds (Champian hails from the southwest region of the United States: Norman, Oklahoma). “Jazz was once a regional music,” she says, “and I feel very connected to that southwest jazz tradition. That intangible something that has to do with a commitment to swing and an approach to the music that’s joyful, instinctual and at the same time intellectual.” This bright spirit shines through on Birdsong, which is arguably her most playful album yet.
Birdsong is Champian’s second collaboration with Scott Hamilton, and their first studio recording together. The duo first connected in 2017 for a live concert in Spain, which was recorded and released as The Things We Did Last Summer by Blau Records. The two hit it off, and continued to stay in touch. During the summer of 2019, Champian worked with Scott in the medieval Tuscan village of Certaldo, where the saxophonist has lived for over a decade, and made concrete plans to get Birdsong off the ground. The rest, as they say, is history.
Champian and Scott delved into the Bird songbook and eventually settled on eleven carefully chosen compositions written by and/or made famous by Charlie Parker. “I wanted to focus not only on his originals, but on his recordings that I consider to be some of the most beautiful songs ever recorded in the world,” said Champian, adding, “...these songs are classic Bird, with rangy and dramatic melodies, romantic lyrics and adventurous chord changes.” Album opener “Just Friends” serves as a brilliant introduction to Scott and the steadfast rhythm section, and is, according to Champian, one of their favorite songs to play. His best selling single, Bird often said that his recording of “Just Friends” was among his personal favorites. Other highlights include the melodic favorite “Yardbird Suite”, the trio treatment of “Quasimodo” (a contrafact of “Embraceable You” and Champian’s favorite Bird head), and a beautiful rendition of “This Is Always”.
Birdsong is a career milestone for Champian Fulton, who is deemed one of the brightest rising stars on the contemporary jazz scene. This is her 12th release, and comes on the heels of last years’ critically acclaimed duo album with Cory Weeds, Dream A Little (Cellar Live). She was recognized as a Rising Jazz Star Vocalist in the 67th Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll, and was awarded the 2019 Hot House Magazine & Jazzmobile NYC Readers Jazz Award for Vocalist and Pianist of the year. Her “galvanizing presence” (the New Yorker) and her alluring musical presentation has made her “a charming young steward of the mainstream Jazz tradition.” (The New York Times).
With Birdsong, Champian Fulton pays tribute to the mammoth musician who has played such an integral role in her life as an artist. In addition to that, she hopes to expose the music of Charlie Parker to new audiences and prove that even on the eve of his centennial, Bird truly is timeless.
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LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"If you’re seeking appropriate accompaniment to a tête-à-tête moment (though, perhaps, not giving birth…), it’s worth knowing that the right, intimate album is within reach." Read this article here.
"Champian Fulton's an artist of many talents – both a great singer and a strong pianist too – at a level that's way more than just a vocalist shading in her lyrics with piano – as part of this set is instrumental, and really showcases Fulton's strong touch on the keys!" Read this article here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Champian Fulton’s choice of songs exhibit her technical mastery of the piano. Her tender and imaginative vocal interpretations are compelling." Read this article here.
"A dandy jazz vocal set that would be a fine showcase even without the Bird hook, you just can't be a straight ahead jazzbo and not dig this." Read this review here.
"The results offer the essence of Charlie Parker but not his ghost, the adventurous and playful nature of the musicians Champian Fulton collaborates with and her own musicality and vocal skills. Good job." Read this article here.
"Avoiding many of the common pitfalls of tribute albums, Birdsong is a solid, Earth-bound outing that lends credence to “Bird Lives” as more than just an old Beat-era rallying cry. For some musicians, it’s more like a family motto." Read this article here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"After a day spent listening, reading, talking about Bird this is just about the perfect way to wind down. Ms Fulton has captured the mood of his music both with her voice and her playing." Read this article here.
CANCIÓN A QUEMARROPA
"Con Birdsong, Champian Fulton rinde homenaje al músico gigantesco que ha jugado un papel tan integral e importante en su vida como artista. Además de eso, espera exponer la música de Charlie Parker a nuevas audiencias y demostrar que incluso en la víspera de su centenario, Bird realmente es atemporal." Lea este articulo aquí.
MAKING A SCENE!
"Bird’s music is indeed timeless and although it’s unusual to hear a vocal album of his material, this is well conceived and delivered in that same spirit that her dad coined as “the most beautiful music there ever was." Read this article here.
LET'S CALL THIS
"But there is something almost radical in the way Fulton and her mates bring to this material something that jazz could use more of these days: charm." Read this article here.
"...there’s not a weak track anywhere on this wonderful album." Read this article here.
THE SYNCOPATED TIMES
"She can get to the heart of a song, those roots, and she knows how to work a band. She plays classic jazz in the truest sense, at the melodic heart of what jazz is." Read this full review here.
WULF'S MUSIC AND BLOG
"A heartfelt and personal tribute to one of the masters of the music called jazz. Highly recommended!" Review here.
NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY
"Champian Fulton made a mark as a purist, Dinah Washington-influenced singer while still in her teens, but in the years since she’s developed piano chops to match that erudite sensibility. There is no other artist in jazz with as much mastery of both the mic and the 88s." Review here.
"Eleven tracks, vocals on most, but damn good piano when it matters. Look out for Ms Champian – she sings, and she swings." Read the review here.
D. OSCAR GROOMES
"This is a swinging instrumental session with some knock-out vocals as well, easily one to sit back and enjoy!" Read the review here.
"You get endeared to Fulton’s stylistic vocals right from the opening note of Just Friends, the first track. Showcased once again on the tune Star Eyes. An enjoyable listen that will get you toe-tapping." Read the 'Best Jazz Albums of 2020' article here.
THE JAZZ RAG MAGAZINE
"If ever an album was needed to lighten our way out of the gloom, Champian Fulton's Birdsong ticks all the boxes.." Read the full review in the Spring 2021 issue of The Jazz Rag Magazine.
"This self-accompanying vocalist can allow her expert piano skills to dominate by taking a deceptively offhand approach to phrasing, singing with a modicum of heft or drama. But there's canniness in the quirky minimalism. She bites into some words while floating breathily over others." Read the full review here.