Saxophone player Tia Fuller spent three years touring the world with Beyonces all-female band. She appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and both the BET and American Music Awards, but theres one gig Fuller missed out on.
I got called for the Super Bowl the same day I got offered the Berklee job, says Fuller, who recently went to work as an instructor at Bostons prestigious Berklee School of Music. Because they wanted the same person to tour with Beyonce all year, she had to decline.
But Fuller, who performs at McGlohon Theatre Saturday for the third installment of the Swing Jazz Series with John Brown Big Band, is happy to get back to teaching and playing more intimate shows. Her Charlotte show is in conjunction with workshops and clinics shes teaching at Duke University, where Brown is a professor.
The Beyonce gig was really a blessing, but musically its very restrictive. Theres little room for spontaneity or improvisation. After a while it felt like a job that I had to go to. You serve as a vessel for her music, which was beautiful and I learned a lot of discipline. But because Im a jazz baby at heart I embrace the smaller, more intimate venues to feel connected to everyone in the audience, says Fuller, who recently returned from Poland where she played with drummer Terry Lynn Carrington. Shell divide her time between solo gigs and dates with Carrington and Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding this summer.
The Swing Series brings Fuller back to her roots.
I was reared in Big Band playing in middle and high school and college. Thats always been a predominant force in music for me, in addition to playing with small groups and improvisation, Fuller says. Saxophone wasnt her first instrument, though. I was playing piano at age 3, and I flunked the beginners book a couple of times. My piano teacher, bless her heart, was so patient, she recalls.
Fuller released her third solo album, Angelic Warrior, in September. Her experience with Beyonce helped her to stick with her vision for the record.
Seeing her in the studio and how she worked she is really meticulous in paying attention to detail in the sense of making sure everything is the way she wants it. It definitely influenced me, says Fuller. When youre make a recording it lasts a lifetime. You have to make sure everything is up to your standard and youre not letting certain things pass.
Fuller says coming up she was never discouraged as the rare female instrumentalist.
Its a matter of staying visible. Weve always been there, but now there are more (career) opportunities with Beyonce doing the all-female groups and other bands that are not jazz-based that are more visible. Were deconstructing that mindset that women arent supposed to play jazz or its strictly a male-driven music.