We had a nice chat with the lovely Champian Fulton, who is performing at Frankie's Jazz Club on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5. Check out our Q&A with this inspiring young songstress!
1. You state that your new album, After Dark, features music of your hero, Dinah Washington. Can you tell us a bit about how she has inspired you?
The first time I heard Dinah Washington, I was a little girl. I fell in love with her big voice and clean phrasing while listening to “The Fats Waller Songbook” and “For Those In Love.” The sound of her voice was everything I wanted to be: strong and sassy; she was clearly having fun in her life. I became completely obsessed. I listened to her records so much that I easily memorized every word and every note. Clark Terry, a family friend, thought it was most amusing to have me sing his solos, as well as Jimmy Cleveland’s and Wynton Kelly’s, while we were at parties. I can remember him telling his friends Joe Williams and Sir Roland Hanna, among others, that I could recite the entire album. On occasion he would ask me to sing “Long John, The Dentist”, which is a rather risqué tune, but of course the humor of an 8-year-old girl singing that song was lost on me until I was much older.
2. We would love to hear a bit about your involvement with jazz education programs. What have you done with the Litchfield Jazz Camp and Rutgers Jazz Institute?
I've been involved with Jazz education for more than 10 years and it's very important to me because I believe it's important to share the legacy and tradition of America's Only Art Form with younger generations, not only to help create young musicians but also to help create listeners. Being in a jazz band also helps young people develop confidence in themselves, and I love seeing the students grow in that way.
3. What is something you feel particularly proud of?
I'm proud of the personnel on the new album, "After Dark". I saw David Williams (bass) so many times with one of my piano heroes, Cedar Walton, and it's an absolute thrill to work with him.
4. If you had to pick a favourite song to sing, what would it be?
"He's Funny That Way" is my favourite song to sing for sure. I just love the lyrics, the melody, and the harmony (the chord changes). It's a song about people who are in love despite their mutual eccentricities, a bit of a star-crossed lovers song.
5. What excites you about live performance?
The energy from the people! I love feeling that we are all creating and experiencing the music together.