by Hans Eekhoff
(from the liner notes of Jazz From Atlanta 1923-1929 on Timeless Records)
Charles Fulcher came from Augusta, Georgia but used Atlanta as his base. Like the Warner's Seven Aces he recorded with his band on that day in June 1923 when Okeh decided to make some field recordings in Atlanta. Fulcher was a multi-instrumentalist and he can he heard on his records playing clarinet, trombone and violin. He also played piano and was always greatly concerned that a piano was properly tuned. Significantly, he became a piano tuner later in life.
The story goes that Fulcher was a difficult man and trumpeter Jack Cathcart remembers playing a gig with Fulcher and not enjoying it. Little more is known about Fulcher. He will probably he best remembered for his composition My Pretty Girl which his band recorded but became famous through the Jean Goldkette Orchestra version, recorded for Victor. During the 1920's Fulcher led a great band though with a distinct 'southern territory' sound. His records are reissued on this CD for the first time although we left out three titles of no jazz interest.
All Fulcher recordings on this album are his own compositions. New York publisher Joe Davis had published Black Cat Blues and My Pretty Girl in the 1920's. By 1939 Fulcher was still trying to sell Davis more compositions hoping to fetch $100 per song but Davis declined them. The first title from the June 1923 session is The Eskimo Song. In spite of its unpromising title it is a true jazz number although the 32-bar intro is played in 'oriental style', apparently applicable to both Arabs and Eskimos. Fulcher's clarinet is prominent throughout the first chorus, followed by a good trumpet.
Black Cat Blues was later given more fame by the black clarinet soloist Bob Fuller who recorded with a trio in 1925. In this original version the lead is first taken by trumpet, followed by Fulcher's inspired clarinet and again excellent trumpet. Like its session mate the number is rounded off in the traditional jazz style of the time. Like the Aces, the Fulcher band recorded for Columbia from January 1925. The Georgia Stomp is a fine up-tempo tune with good clarinet and trumpet. Home Sweet Home Blues starts with tenor sax in the lead, followed by an excellent trumpet solo. After the verse, an arranged chorus leads into a typical Fulcher clarinet solo. The band goes into a real hot ensemble for the last half chorus. This tune had also been published and a vocal rendition was recorded by Baby Bonnie for the Gennett label three weeks earlier.
My Pretty Girl was Fulcher's most important composition and his biggest success although it didn't become famous until the Goldkette recording for the Victor label 16 months later. It was recorded several times after that by different bands but usually based on the Goldkette version. None of these bands picked up most of the characteristics, notably the full stops by the entire band in the second half of the number, that are so significant in this original version. Recorded electrically it is a very inspiring tune, wonderfully arranged with plenty of fine solo work. The coda by just tuba and cymbal is, to say the least, unusual. Fulcher was ahead of his time as his own recording of the number sold badly (unlike the Goldkette version) and is very rare today. The next two tunes, issued as Fulcher's Dance Trio, feature the leader as multi-instrumentalist playing clarinet, violin and trombone accompanied by piano and banjo.
After That and Daylight's Breaking Blues are both nice, cheerful tunes, the former somewhat more up-tempo. Fulcher was a genuine southerner and his violin-playing sounds definitely hillbilly. Hey! Hey! is played in a rough, loose and unpolished but nonetheless pleasant style. 'Territory Jazz' in its purest form it has solos by trombone, clarinet, baritone sax, trumpet and a typical 'barnyard' vocal by the leader.
Atlanta Gal was recorded in New York, almost two years later. The sound of the band had changed quite a bit and it might be an entirely different personnel. Although the band sounds fine and the arrangement is typical for Fulcher, the amateurish trumpet soloist is laughable more than anything else. Fulcher's vocal is rather spoiled by the same bugler but otherwise it is a nice performance with some good clarinet and an excellent ensemble with a quote from Walking My Baby Back Home. This was Fulcher's last recording. It is believed that he quit as a bandleader and became a piano tuner for the rest of his life.