Meet Me at Birdland
Release date: 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.
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.
Live From Lockdown
Release date: September 10, 2021
The multifaceted pianist and vocalist Champian Fulton's new album Live from Lockdown comes from the artist's captivating Sunday-evening webcasts. Recorded throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, Fulton's streaming efforts took audiences by storm. After lockdown, she decided to offer a permanent recording of her series. Released digitally and as a limited edition compact disc, Live from Lockdown features a representative selection of some of the most popular sessions from Fulton and her steadfast collaborator, her father Stephen Fulton on flugelhorn and trumpet. A profound display of cheerful composure during an uncertain time, Live from Lockdown showcases the musicians’ sophisticated synchronicity among a collection of re-imagined jazz classics and Fulton originals.
When the COVID-19 lockdown swept Manhattan last spring, Champian Fulton saw her packed schedule full of concerts and tours vanish before her eyes. “I couldn’t believe it when all the cancellations started rolling in; it was really devastating to see an entire calendar year of touring vanish.” Fulton shares. With venues closed, and with social distancing in full effect, Champian and her father, noted trumpeter and flugelhornist, began performing at home for a virtual audience. The concerts were an instant success, bringing in over 20,000 viewers on a given week, and winning legions of new fans for the Fulton family duo. “Live streaming was a total lifesaver for me. It not only gave me a way to stay motivated about my music but it connected me to my fans in a way I never knew possible. I felt so much love and positivity each Sunday; it kept me going through a very tough time.”
The success of the live-stream (which is still going strong albeit on a less rigorous schedule) inspired Champian to record a full album devoted to the concept. The resulting work goes well beyond the novelty, and is certainly far too cohesive a work to be thought of as a mere souvenir.
“For future listeners just hearing the music without knowing the context, it will be pleasure undiluted. For those of us who know the context, I think it will be one of those pleasures that deserves to be called sustaining, a gift that helped us in a rough time and, more importantly, told us it was worth getting through,” says critic Charles Taylor in his liner notes.
Live From Lockdown opens with Ray Noble’s, “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You.” Champian’s rosy rendition maintains a hopeful charm, even with Stephen’s short blows and percussive notes resembling a heavy heart behind Champian in her effervescence. On an original composition from the duo, “Pass the Hat”, Stephen performs a buoyant lowdown and more stylistic offering that is mutually grasped by his daughter on the piano.
Champian’s diverse range across Live from Lockdown is a showcase of a newfound posture she revels in while in the company of her witty partner. Her vocal versatility is embodied on tracks like “What Will I Tell My Heart”, and as the liner notes point out, “she can go from a high whispery register, consistently present throughout the album, to sudden low swoops that bounce us back to earth.” Uniquely, the Fultons cover Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s “I Had The Craziest Dream” nodding to the ambiguity of our present moment, while still directing our ears and eyes toward normality sometime soon.
Fulton considers her optimistic spirit a statement of purpose, as her musical repertoire has always tended toward the sunny. And radiant she is on this twelve-track selection in the company of her father. Live from Lockdown is a reminder of how in sync the pair are on their first ever duo recording together.
“The Sunday series of ‘Live from Lockdown’ really reminded me of the importance of the Jazz community,” Fulton reflects. “I felt such friendship and kindness each week as people tuned in and chatted with me, checking out different records and sharing videos. It sustained me and gave me a hopeful perspective for the future of this music. I hope this recording gives the same feeling to the listener.”
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.
Read more here.
For Meet Me at Birdland
For Live From Lockdown
"Let this be the music we remember from the COVID-19 era, then, instead of something tatty, haphazard, or unnecessarily negative: a father and daughter facing an uncertain future and opting to have a musical conversation. Thank goodness we get to be a fly on the wall." Read the full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"With her strong left hand, mastery of swing standards and distinctive singing, which, while not derivative, could fit easily into ‘40s-50s jazz, one never misses other instruments when she performs by herself. She has helped keep a tradition alive not by copying the past but by simply being herself" Read this review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Ms. Fulton has a great piano technique and its jazz all the way, laced with blues." Read the full review here.
THE REHEARSAL STUDIO
"This is one of those albums on which every track has something to appeal to the attentive listener, a reminder that we shall get through this pandemic by keeping attention fixed on more positive matters." Read the full review here.
CD HOT LIST
"A new album from Champian Fulton is always cause for celebration, and when she’s joined by her father, the outstanding flugelhorn and trumpet player Stephen Fulton, you can be assured of a warm, complex, and golden-toned musical experience." Read the full review here.
ABC JAZZ AUSTRALIA
"Our feature album this week takes us to New York and not to a club or studio, but Champian Fulton's home - where she captured a session live from lockdown with her father, trumpeter Stephen Fulton." Feature album of the week. See here.
NEW JERSEY JAZZ SOCIETY
"This partnership produced empathetic performances that combined Champian’s dexterous pianism and spot-on vocalizing with Stephen who is equally adept at playing fills behind his daughter and taking expansive solos. They will immediately grab your attention..." Review here.
THE SYNCOPATED TIMES
"There is a maturity and timelessness to this album, and it shouldn’t be dismissed as a lockdown era effort." Read this review here.
"The woman who is arguably the best piano-playing singer and best singing pianist in jazz has featured her dad, flugelhornist and trumpeter Stephen Fulton on many albums in her discography." Read the full review here.
"Classic sounding hot sonatas are performed by Champian Fulton at voice and piano, joined by trumpeter and flugelhorn man Stephen Fulton on a great mix of standards with a mix of originals." Review here.
"Stephen’s muted trumpet adds to the playful aura as Champian sings she’s losing her mind, something everyone can relate to in these times." Review in January 2022 issue.
"Snappy, snazzy and full of joie de vivre, we need more like her." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Her piano playing is a full-bodied blues and stride style that fits snugly against her father's trumpet." Read the review here.
"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.
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.
Jazz singer-pianist and Oklahoma native Champian Fulton pays homage to Charlie Parker with new album Birdsong
Read the full feature 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.
"We've been talking a lot about Charlie Parker these last few weeks in the lead up to the saxophonist's centenary - and a number of contemporary artists have also paid tribute to the bop legend." Feature album of the week. See here.
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.
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.
"...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.
OFF THE TRACKS
"It’s just a lovely album – so perfectly played and produced. Not a note out of place and yet never sounding ‘too clean’." Read this full 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.
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.
"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 Deli Express episode discusses how Champian Fulton's "Birdsong" honors Charlie Parker. Listen to the podcast here.