Tia Fuller
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Tia Fuller


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The best kept secret in music


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Pillar of Strength, Tia Fuller
Eternal Journey, Sean Jones
Gemini, Sean Jones
Roots, Sean Jones



Call her a wide-eyed optimist, perhaps, but saxophonist/flutist and composer Tia Fuller truly believes that music can indeed serve as the perfect elixir, hence the title of her Mack Avenue debut, Healing Space, the follow-up to her independently released CD, Pillar of Strength. Conceived during a time of personal turmoil and transition, the disc explores themes of transgression, reflection and deliverance with 10 original compositions, seven of which were penned by Fuller. “My prayer is that this album serves as a healing agent for others and for people to feel uplifted when listening to it. To not only aid in one’s healing, but wholeness and restoration...inspiring one to relentlessly press toward a breakthrough into the next level,” Fuller says.

An uplifting spirit ignites Healing Space from the get-go on “Breakthrough,” a bristling post-Motown bop excursion that not only highlights Fuller’s bold and sassy alto tone and serpentine-like improvisations but also her invigorating interaction with her band mates, especially trumpeter and label-mate Sean Jones, who has featured her on his three Mack Avenue discs, Roots, Gemini, and Eternal Journey. Her sanguinity sparkles on the following “Just a Journey,” a billowing mid-tempo groove, written by her sister Shamie Fuller-Royston, that shows that Fuller is just as commanding on the soprano saxophone as she is on alto. Fuller pulls another gem from big sis’ songbook with the R&B-laden ballad “Ebonics,” a tune that would fit nicely on a sophisticated, yet young-minded jazz radio format geared towards jazz listeners of the hip-hop generation. Except for the gentle and evocative “The Olive Leaf and Dove,” written by Shamie and her drummer husband Rudy Royston, the remaining compositions are originals.

A 30-year-old jazz musician releasing a sophomore date absent of any standards is a bold move.
Citing Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis as significant compositional influences, Fuller excels at economizing – getting to the essence of her material then expressing it in an unmistakably lyrical and cogent manner. Just witness the poignant twin compositions – “Katrina’s Prayer” and “Katrina’s Lullaby” for evidence. The former proceeds like a gospel hymn as Fuller unravels a plaintive melody reminiscent of the kind heard in most black American churches; the latter exudes a tranquil quality as if she’s trying to soothe the physical and emotional scars of Hurricane Katrina’s victims. “I wanted to offer something,” Fuller says after witnessing the horrors of the catastrophe. “After sending a $70 donation to Red Cross, I felt like it wasn’t enough. At that time, I wanted to provide a comfort zone for victims, that were directly and indirectly affected by the hurricane.”

Other compositions like the Latin-tinged “Fertile Ground,” the introspective ballad “A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime” (featuring singer Charenee Wade) and the gospel-flavored “I Release Me/Healing Space” (featuring singer Iyanna Wakefield) chart Fuller’s affirmation in cultivating and embracing the new, while surrendering, receiving and trusting in God’s will. She dedicates the surging, Kenny Garrett-esque “Blue Room in Mama’s Womb” to her mother. “I told my mom that I remembered being in her womb and it was very blue and extremely comforting. Later to find out the color blue is symbolic of healing and devotion,” she says.

Fuller’s compositions are superbly executed by her working band – pianist Miki Hayama, bassist Miriam Sullivan and drummer Kim Thompson – three dynamic female jazz musicians she met at the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Conference via its Sisters in Jazz Collegiate all-star group and jam sessions throughout New York. “The four of us have such an amazing chemistry in that we experience an innate connection which is internally driven,” Fuller says, dispelling old stereotypes of female musicians not getting along. “We look out for each other; we have a sisterhood.” Percussionist Khalil Kwame Bell, Mack Avenue label-mate and tenor saxophonist Ron Blake, and Jones are guests on several tracks.

Curiously enough, Fuller and Thompson are also members of R&B superstar Beyoncé’s all-female touring band, and are featured in Beyoncé’s video, “Irreplaceable.”

The release of Healing Space on Mack Avenue seemed inevitable considering that Fuller was Sean Jones’ secret weapon on his discs. The two develop a spellbinding accord that is heard on “Breakthrough,” “Ebonics,” “Fertile Ground” and “The Olive Leaf and Dove.” Fuller met Jones in New York City in 2002, when she was playing a corporate R&B gig. They kept in touch, but didn’t start initially playing together until later that year, coincidentally at church and on another R&B date, “Live at Nuno’s” Def Comedy night in New Jersey.

Prior to moving to New York City, Fuller grew up in Aurora, Colorado. Music filled her childhood as her parents were jazz musicians – her father plays ba