With CHRISTMAS WITH CHAMPIAN Jazz Great Champian Fulton brightens up the holiday season at Birdland
It might be starting to look a lot like Christmas, but it doesn’t look like Christmas in Birdland, even though that’s what is sold in the title of the show CHRISTMAS WITH CHAMPIAN. Yes. Champian Fulton’s current show contains holiday music, but not as you might think. Anyone who’s had enough of candy canes and eggnog, sweet Christmas music, and preaching religious compositions can rejoice that Ms. Fulton’s jazz trio features music you could listen to every time. days of the year … although the lyrics sometimes feature Yuletide’s verbiage. It doesn’t matter what Champian Fulton sings, honestly; she could perform “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”, “Gregorian Chant” or his “ABC’s” and she would still sound like she was singing the most complex improvisations ever heard on a jazz club stage or any other stage. would take care to name. When you have a voice like Champian Fulton’s, you kind of have to sing jazz. It’s a rule. This is the eleventh commandment. She’s a woman and an artist who was meant to sing jazz, that’s exactly what she does at Birdland this Christmas, and that’s why there are people in a nightclub on Christmas.
Working alongside her dope drummer Fukushi Tainaka and bass boss Hide Tanaka, Ms. Fulton presents some seventy minutes of relaxed conversation and sophisticated swing. Oh, it’s not swing in the sense of a “Swing Band”, but this band really does swing, and it’s a real joy to sit in a room and watch them play because it’s like watching young people on a playground, having fun. This is because Fulton et co. are really having fun. Without benefiting from any charts, the jazz trio play against each other, enjoying each other’s company and artistry, even taking the opportunity to stop and look at each other, sometimes laughing at each other. bursts into wonder at the skills displayed by their colleagues. Sometimes laid-back and cool, others loud and exciting, Champian swings back and forth between her jazz-infused vacation classics like “The Christmas Waltz” and a truly wonderful “Winter Wonderland” and classic standards like “I Cried For You âand the highlight of the eveningâ The Very Thought of You â. A true jazz set, there is no script, no trajectory, no story to tell, although Fulton is a very good storyteller, as evidenced by the odd tale of a backstory here or the flippant remark about Willie Nelson there, and with each new comment revealing a little more who she is and what amuses her, there’s a tangible tug of a chord or two that informs of a growing trend. to be infatuated by the charming Champian.
It is difficult for a manager or club owner to choose the right location for a piano because no matter where an audience member is seated, they will be missing a visual that they feel is important. If the pianist is singing (like Mrs. Fulton) there is a desire to see their face; if the pianist is hot (like Mrs Fulton is), you have to see his fingers. The Birdland team (or maybe Champian herself) did a really good job putting the piano in the right place, but Fulton herself is constantly aware of the audience and makes sure the crowd is watching her. face enough times to appreciate its beauty. More important, however, than the face are the hands. There’s a sort of eloquence in the way Ms. Fulton’s hands move across the keys – it’s not as flashy as some of the other pianists we’ve seen at Birdland, but there is a definite purpose to it. movement, giving the audience a chance to see more relaxed fluidity at times, then very pronounced keystrokes at others, even times a hand rises in the air and pauses, waiting the right moment go down on the keys. It is a rather moving experience, just like the observation trip to be undertaken with Messrs Tainaka and Tanaka, who both play their instruments with a candor and a humor that constantly reminds us that they are there to play, that the The public is the happy beneficiary of their playing time, much like the lives of athletes. These three people are just athletes of music – and it is music so immaculate that this writer had one of those rare times when the concept of music, the thought that someone over these centuries has had the idea of ââcreating music, has become clearly appreciable. Listening to all the layers, colors, nuances of the Champian Fulton Trio play out this show, I actually wrote in my notebook: âThere are times when the miracle of music rings true for you. It was during the performance of “Gracias a Dios” that the scoring occurred, just below a scribble that reads: “It’s like watching a sporting event” which was done during a performance of Oscar Peterson’s “Blues Agent” which stood out as the triumph of an evening filled with remarkable musical moments, in particular a “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” which will redefine how a person views the famous composition of holidays.
Redefining vacations – a lot of people could use a bit of it right now. It’s not that easy these days to get in the Christmas mood, and there are many who don’t even celebrate Christmas. But the thing we can all celebrate every day of the year is music that will make us feel, help us feel better, remind us of all that is good and good in the world. It’s that music.
CHRISTMAS WITH CHAMPIAN has performances on December 24 and 25 at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. To book, visit the Birdland website HERE.
HERE is Champian Fulton’s website.
Photos by Stephen Mosher