Tia Fuller’s Sax Brilliance Cuts Both Ways

It could have been a larger crowd for Tia Fuller’s innovative performance with her quartet August 12 at the Musical Instrument Museum.  After all, she has performed with Nancy Wilson, John Faddis and was in the all female band on tour with Beyonce.


A Grammy-nominated sax player who grew up on Coltrane and Bird, she released her 5th album, Diamond Cut on CD in 2018. Fuller and her quartet played freewheeling improvisational excursions and sweet-toned classic jazz asides during her performance at the MIM. A crowd that filled roughly half the concert hall were Tia Fuller diehards who appreciate her deep knowledge of jazz harmony and her less restrained approach to performance.


Her opening included a lengthy declaration a la John Coltrane, a cauldron of impressive riffing by her and her bandmates, which now includes guitar, bass and drums, but no longer piano, which she eschewed for Diamond Cut and the tour. There were several of these scalding, lengthy statements during the show.


Jazz players this good don’t need critiques of their musicianship, and quibbling with Tia Fuller’s approach almost seems insignificant in the blinding light of their talent. Yet despite the occasional deft melodies in the few meditative pieces they played, the band also sounded like they didn’t have a clear direction in style. An educator at the Berklee School of Music, Tia Fuller’s MIM performance in sum sounded like a doctoral thesis in jazz styles.


Still, listening to Fuller and her band, it’s easy to appreciate an artist’s desire to spread their wings musically. If you are a fan of intense unrestrained modern jazz you can find more information on Tia Fuller at tiafuller.com. Info on upcoming concerts at the MIM is available at https://mim.org/.

Photos and text by Chazz Rayburn