Matt Fuller dealt with the death of four family members by writing a (brilliant) album

Categories: Interviews, Jazz

matt-fuller.jpg
Courtesy of Matt Fuller
Between 2006 and 2011, jazz guitarist Matt Fuller endured the loss of his grandfather, his father, his grandmother and his mother. During that period, Fuller wrote a number of songs that helped him through the healing process. Those songs appear on his debut album, Waiting for Violet, which he will release this Sunday with a pair of shows at Dazzle.

Some of the songs came to him during his drive back and forth between Denver and the Western Slope town of Delta, where his mother, Susie, lived.

"I guess the whole album was me trying to find meaning in all of this," Fuller says. "And writing music and playing it, too, is therapeutic for me. It was part of the process for me of going through those transitions. It always felt good for me to pick up my guitar and start playing. Sometimes it would be these new patterns, like the one on 'Circling Circling.' That one just kind of came when I was taking care of my mom in Delta."

Fuller says that he never wanted listening to the album to be a somber or sad experience. He wanted the songs to be like snapshots that he captured of that time in his life. The song "For Glen," written on his grandfather's beat-up 1930s Gibson acoustic, came to Fuller when he picked up the guitar after his grandfather died. He also recorded the song with it.

The album's title is a reference to Fuller's young niece Violet, whom he believes his mother was waiting to see before it was her time to pass. "There's a new generation now," Fuller says. "Both of my brothers have two kids -- the cycle of life happening...and more cause for celebration. And it's great that my mom got to meet the little ones. I really think she was waiting for Violet to [be born] so that you had that kid energy around. She was always making us laugh and whatnot."

Fuller says he loves playing these songs live and feels like it brings him closer to his relatives' spirits. "It doesn't feel like it makes me sad," he says. "It makes me feel more connected to them."

Fuller adds that one of the beauties of jazz expression is that it evolves with people as they grow. "Now the way I play these songs is different than the way we played them on the album. That keeps them feeling fresh and current."

The virtuosic guitarist recorded Waiting for Violet with bandmates Ron Miles, Greg Harris, Jean-Luc Davis and Josh Moore (and guest vocalist Venus Cruz) in Denver in 2012 before he and his wife packed up the Subaru, a dog, two cats and nice guitars and moved to the Ditmas Park area of Brooklyn, where they settled a couple blocks from a few other jazz-centric Colorado transplants: Tyler Gilmore, Steven-Jon Billings and Ayo Awosika.

Although Fuller says he hasn't been gigging in New York as much as he had been in Denver, he's been making a living as a guitar teacher, something he's been doing for more than a decade. After getting his master's degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004, Fuller went on to join the faculty at the University of Northern Colorado, where he was a jazz guitar instructor, head of the jazz guitar program and director of the school's guitar ensembles.

Matt Fuller's CD-release shows: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, May 4, Dazzle, 303-839-5100, $12-$17.

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