Angelic Warrior, is alto saxophone player Tia Fuller’s third outing for Mack Avenue Records, and like Fuller’s last outing, Decisive Steps, Fuller continues to distance herself from her acoustic bop comfort zone. Angelic Warrior went on sale Tuesday, and it's Fuller’s most fusion driven outing yet, and shows Fuller is a leader unafraid to take chances.
Much has been said about Fuller’s tenure with pop sweetheart Beyoncé’, and Fuller’s stint as jazz sensation Esperanza Spalding's musical director. Those high profile gigs have done wonders for Fuller’s resume’ and has surely fatten her bank account, but Fuller has done some of her best work with trumpeter Sean Jones, and as a leader.
It’s not surprising Fuller has evolved into a fearless leader. It’s worth debating if her statement as a leader surpasses the excellent work she did on Jones' albums. His band was a preparatory academy for Fuller’s chops. There’re glaring examples on two of Jones’ dates--Gemini (2005) and Roots--(2006) that Fuller was going to be a star.
For Angelic Warrior Fuller, wore the producer’s hat, and she did so skillfully. The core of Fuller’s band remains intact. Piano player Shamie Royston and drummer Rudy Royston are still reliable staffers, putting in a good days work on Royston Rumble, Descend To Barbados, and the title cut.
Fuller has three marquee special guests, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bass player John Patitucci. They log the most man-hours. Singer Dianne Reeves drops in for Fuller’s reworking of Body and Soul, which is the album’s lowlight. (That cut is the only one.)
The album's highlight (there are plenty) is Fuller's modernized take of the bop classic Cherokee. When the great Charlie Parker and Art Pepper played Cherokee, they hauled ass through it. Fuller and Carrington speed skates through it. This cut alone is a sufficient enough reason to buy Angelic Warrior.
With Decisive Steps and Angelic Warrior, Fuller has put out back to back killers, and has moved into the same realm with current alto sax lions Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenon, Vincent Herring and Kenny Garrett. Not bad company.