Swing is the musical manifestation of forward motion. To achieve one's goals, one must take giant steps. Today's modern musicians at the change of the 21st century are moving miles ahead, advancing the jazz continuum, while remaining open and engaged in other musical inventions and dimensions. The astonishingly gifted, Colorado-born, alto / soprano saxophonist / flautist Tia Fuller is such an artist. She is at home at all points of the musicverse - from her show-stopping solos as a member of superstar Beyoncé's all-female band, to her scintillatingly swinging jazz dates and recordings.
Fuller's jazz-rooted, genre-crossing artistry is the result of an arts-filled childhood. She was born in Aurora, Colorado to musician parents, bassist Fred and singer Elthopia, who both taught in the Denver Public School District. She grew up listening to Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan and Charlie Parker. She started playing classical piano at the age of three, inspired by her older sister, Shamie, and studied the instrument for ten years. She started playing the flute at the age of nine and began playing the saxophone, deepening her interest in middle school. In 1998, she graduated Magna Cum Laude at Spelman College in Atlanta (where she studied with the great saxophonist/educator Joe Jennings) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music; graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a Master of Music degree, Jazz Pedagogy and Performance in 2000.
Fuller made the eventual move to New York, relocating to nearby Jersey City, arriving two days before September 11, 2001. Undaunted by the terrible times of that period, she forged ahead and played and recorded with some of jazz's brightest stars, including the Duke Ellington Big Band, Nancy Wilson, T.S. Monk, Don Byron, Brad Leali, Wycliff Gordan, Mickey Roker, Ralph Petersen, Jon Faddis, Rufus Reid, Jimmy Heath, Gerald Wilson, Sean Jones, Charlie Persip, and Don Braden. Then, on June 17, 2006 she was hired by Beyoncé and, as they say, the rest is history. "Playing with her is truly amazing," Fuller says. "I've really learned a lot about maintaining your integrity, and also how as an artist, you have to be the facilitator...surrounding yourself with a great team that shares and helps to facilitate your vision. Also, learning to engage and entertain your audience, as well as being consistent. There's something to it, playing the same show every night, almost verbatim. And every night, that consistency is able to grab and keep sixteen and seventeen thousand people a night; and for them, to have the most amazing experience. So it's really empowering - not only to be performing with her, and to see how high of a work ethic she has, but to also be in a band of all women that are ALL creative and musical legends, in their own right. The ten of us musically enhance each other. Each of us contribute a different piece of the puzzle, something completely different; yet equally important to Beyoncé's band."
Along with her high-profile gig with Beyoncé, Fuller has also emerged as a solo recording artist. In 2005 she released her first CD as a leader (produced by mother, Elthopia Fuller), Pillar of Strength (Wambui), which was praised by Terrell Holmes of All About Jazz for being "an exhilarating work that introduced her as a leader who strives for perfection," followed by her Mack Avenue debut, Healing Space in 2007. Her newest Mack Avenue release Decisive Steps, is the long-awaited follow-up album.