[ Students & Alumni ]

Alumnus Jeff Fuller joins YSM Jazz Initiative

Bassist and composer to coach jazz combos
August 31, 2016
Jeff Fuller | Photo by Studio Duda Photography

Jeff Fuller | Photo by Studio Duda Photography

Bassist and composer Jeff Fuller ’67BA ’69MM is joining the Yale School of Music’s recently announced Jazz Initiative as an ensemble coach. He’ll work alongside Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, who will teach a course in improvisation and coach jazz combos.

As a performer, Fuller has worked with such acclaimed jazz artists as Mose Allison, Dizzy Gillespie, “Papa” Jo Jones, Gerry Mulligan, and Clark Terry, among others. He’s a leader of the New Haven-based Brazilian jazz trio Sambeleza, has toured with ensembles led by Paquito D’Rivera and Hilton Ruiz, and has composed and arranged music for the salsa band Irazú, whose recordings have featured Arturo Sandoval and Tata Güines. Fuller has received commissions from the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and Hartford Symphony Orchestra and has had his music recorded by the Haven String Quartet. His first CD of original music, The Call from Within, was released in 2014. His second, Shoreline Blues, came out in May 2016.

Fuller, who studied composition at the Yale School of Music with Bülent Arel, taught composition and jazz theory and conducted jazz ensembles at ACES Educational Center for the Arts for many years. He currently teaches and leads the Premiere Jazz Ensemble at Neighborhood Music School.

Professor Thomas C. Duffy who directs the University’s bands and oversees the YSM Jazz Initiative, said Fuller brings to the program “expertise with combos, big bands, Latin jazz, and traditional jazz” and expertise in Cuban and Brazilian rhythms. Fuller has been “a major figure in the jazz scene since I arrived here in 1982,” Duffy said.

A key component of the Initiative is the Yale Jazz Ensemble, which is being reconstituted after being suspended two years ago. Formerly an extracurricular undergraduate organization, the Yale Jazz Ensemble, under Duffy’s direction, will be open to all Yale students.

“These days,” Fuller said, “there’s an enormous amount of interest among the undergraduates to have more formalized jazz studies, and I’m happy to be part of the Jazz Initiative in bringing jazz into the realm of serious study.”

In addition to Escoffery and Fuller, who will each coach jazz combos, saxophonist Carrie Koffman will serve as a private instructor on the instrument. Koffman will bring to the Initiative an expertise that the School had previously been without.

The Initiative, which was announced by YSM Dean Robert Blocker in July, is built on a legacy of jazz instruction and programming at the School, beginning with a historic 1972 Jazz Convocation in Woolsey Hall that brought the giants of the art form to Yale, launched the Ellington Jazz Series, and provided a home for Professor and Ellington Jazz Series Artistic Director Willie Ruff’s concept of a “conservatory without walls.”



Congrats to YMS and Jeff Fuller. I graduated in 1958 (BM/MM). I received a certificate of merit award in 1976 in commercial music. I was essentially a jazz player who supported myself by playing commercial music. It became a career first in New York, and then in Las Vegas where I’ve been these last 56 years. I am now semi retired…but still play jazz with various groups from small ensembles to big bands.
I was looked upon as being an outsider when I was at YMS because of my jazz playing. How I wish that they had this program when I was a student! The only teacher who really appreciated my ability to improvise was Ralph Kirkpatrick. He really “dug” my playing. Don Currier, my piano teacher, also appreciated my ability to improvise and harmonic ear. Quincy Porter enjoyed my 2 part counterpoint fugue. He acknowledged my “natural”countepoint. It came out of playing jazz my whole lifetime.
Best luck on your new program. God, I wish I were still a student there….I’d be sitting in the front seat!
I’ve played with Jeff……a great artist……and teacher. He deserves this position. He’ll be great for the students.
Ron Simone

September 1st, 2016 | Ronald Simone