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The Opener (1957)

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Curtis Fuller

The Opener is trombonist Curtis Fuller's first album for Blue Note and it is a thoroughly impressive affair. Working with a quintet featuring tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor, Fuller runs through a set of three standards -- "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening," "Here's to My Lady," "Soon" -- two originals and an Oscar Pettiford-penned calypso. The six songs give Fuller a chance to display his warm, fluid style in all of its variations. "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" illustrates that he can be seductive and lyrical on ballads, while the brassy "Hugore" and hard-swinging "Lizzy's Bounce" shows that he can play hard without getting sloppy. His backing musicians are equally impressive; in particular, Mobley's robust playing steals the show. In all, The Opener, along with his three earlier sessions for Prestige and New Jazz, establishes Fuller as one of the most distinctive and original hard bop trombonists of the late '50s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine