August 24, 2020. Champian Fulton’s first paid gig was playing Clark Terry’s 75th birthday party. She was 10 years old. Now, at 35, the pianist and vocalist is more than just precocious and well-connected; she’s ambitious, too—averaging nearly one new release every year since her 2007 debut. But her latest, Birdsong, released to coincide with Charlie Parker’s centennial, might be her loosest and most joyful recording to date.
And there’s a reason for that.
The music of Charlie Parker has been hardwired into Champian Fulton’s musical mainframe from the moment her life began. Fulton’s father, Stephen—a professional trumpeter who’s now played for years in his daughter’s quartet and appears here on flugelhorn—wanted to make sure his newborn came into the world accompanied by the “most beautiful music there ever was.”
For Stephen Fulton that was the Norman Granz-produced Charlie Parker with Strings.
A cassette of that legendary recording played throughout Fulton’s mother’s pregnancy and accompanied mother and newborn into the delivery room, where Bird—or, at least, his music—literally played the future jazz musician’s introduction to existence.
Now Fulton gets to return the favor, singing and playing new life into her favorite slice of the Charlie Parker songbook. Each selection here was either written or otherwise made famous by Parker, including three from the seminal With Strings outings.
But Birdsong deftly avoids the trap that ensnares so many Parker tributes; it doesn’t thoughtlessly trot out near