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April 26, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Tia Fuller discovered the list of goals she tucked away more than 10 years ago and almost came to tears. When she was in New York, these were lofty aspirations, reflecting the naïveté and innocence of her jazz career. Today, extraordinary saxophonist Fuller, 35, has crossed off a majority of that list.
Touring the world? Check. In 2007, Fuller started touring with Beyoncé and played the saxophone in a 10-piece band.
When: Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Cost: $18 to 37
Join a band? Check. She’s the bandleader in a jazz quartet that is working on its fourth album, which will be released in August.
On April 29, the Tia Fuller Quartet will perform at Murry’s for the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series. Fuller’s post-bop, gospel and R&B style has grown throughout the years from her start at age 13, when she chose the saxophone from the wide array of jazz instruments vying for her talents. She learned piano at 3 and flute at 9, and her interest was always jazz. Growing up in a musical family taught her that jazz pianists or flautists weren’t as prevalent in the industry, so with the recommendation from her middle-school band teacher, she met the saxophone.
“I remember the first time I blew into it,” Fuller says. “I was able to get a nice big sound, bigger than the flute. I think I liked the obnoxiousness of it.”
Fuller moved to New York with the intention of becoming a professional musician in 2001 once she saved money for a year after earning her master’s degree in jazz pedagogy and performance at the University of Colorado. In New York, she worked as a substitute teacher, teaching everything but music, and had small gigs around town until her breakthrough in 2006, when she signed with Mack Avenue Records and started touring with Beyoncé.
This scene introduced Fuller to the world of pop and hip-hop, which she has since incorporated into her music. She saw people moved by Beyoncé’s vocals and translated that to the set lists she creates. Beyoncé’s performances also taught her to be constantly aware of what her body language conveys to her audience. For example, how she should stand and how she should hold her horn while not playing.
Fuller’s audiences have varied, ranging from a couple hundred in small jazz venues to thousands in sold-out stadiums. Although comparing a Beyoncé concert to a jazz show is like comparing a lion and a mouse, Fuller sees the similarities between the two.
“I enjoy the intimacy of smaller audiences and the liveliness and mass sound of thousands of people,” Fuller says. “That energy can be present in 200 or 300 people.”
Fuller’s appearance at Murry’s will be on the smaller end of the spectrum and will be her first time at the venue. Josh Chittum, public information officer for the Jazz Series, says Fuller has a strong and new sound.
“She has so much potential,” Chittum says. “She’s not that well-known in both jazz circles or the American household.”
Of course Fuller is focused on making a name for herself, but her next step is to check the remaining items off of her list — to get married and have children. Considering what has already been crossed off, she’s pretty confident she will get it done.