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A Jazz Bass Player Who Can "Call the Pitches"

Jeff Fuller

The New Haven Jazz Festival kicks off Thursday evening with an event honoring Connecticut musician/composer Jeff Fuller

Fuller is a versatile and eclectic bassist who performed for over 15 years with jazz great Lou Donaldson, six years with Cuban jazz artist Paquito D’Rivera, and over the years, with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan and Randy Brecker. He’s also an educator who has taught jazz for nearly two decades at an arts magnet school in New Haven.

WNPR’s Diane Orson spoke with Jeff Fuller earlier this week.

Talk to me about the role of the bass in ensembles that you play with.

Jeff Fuller: The role of the bass is both rhythmic and harmonic, but it’s also melodic. In any music, the bass player has a lot of potential to carry and affect the overall sound of the group. In a way, its like being the catcher on a baseball team. You call the pitches. You see the entire field. You pace the game, in a way.

How did you get into jazz?

I grew up in an educational system in Connecticut where the music program was good to begin with. When I went to college and studied music, and especially when I studied composition, I realized that the moods, the shades of meanings, the forms, are capable of being highly expressive. I was drawn to both the structure of jazz and also the freedom of the improvisation.

You’ve taught at the Educational Center for the Arts for almost 20 years. Can you talk about that?

The Educational Center for the Arts was founded on the principle that students in the five disciplines -- visual, creative writing, theater, dance, and music -- would study with actively practicing professionals in their trades. That has been carried through. It’s an opportunity to work with students who really want to be there. In my jazz ensemble last spring, I counted seven regional or all-state jazz performers. That’s an amazing number for a small group.

What has teaching given you?

Teaching has given me the opportunity to share my passion for the music that I love. I’ve actually gotten more into teaching the more I’ve done it. I realize how important it is for those of us who are in the trade, in the business of music, in the business of playing jazz, writing jazz or any kind of music to share with the younger generation so the music continues to live.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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