Champian Fulton

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Champian Fulton
Birth name Champian Fulton
Born (1985-09-12) September 12, 1985 (age 31)
Origin Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
Genres Vocal Jazz, Swing, Bebop
Occupation(s) Singer, musician
Instruments vocals, piano
Years active 2000–present
Labels Various
Website [13]

Champian Fulton (born September 12, 1985) is an American Jazz pianist, vocalist and recording artist who specializes in interpreting music of the swing and bebop jazz eras. Since being chosen as a “Rookie of the Year” by Village Voice in 2007,[1] she has become a regular on the New York City Jazz scene where she has performed with musical icons including Jimmy Cobb, Lou Donaldson, Frank Wess, Eric Alexander, Buster Williams, and Louis Hayes.[2]


Fulton was born in Norman, Oklahoma in 1985. She started playing piano as a young child, later taking up singing, drums, and trumpet, and then moving to piano and vocals. Strongly influenced by her father, Stephen Fulton, a jazz trumpeter and educator, she fell in love with jazz music at an early age. Surrounded by her father and his jazz musician friends, which included Clark Terry, Major Holley, Red Holloway, Butch Miles, Snooky Young, among others, she quickly learned the language of the music first-hand. Instead of listening to the pop music of her time, she became immersed in the sounds of bebop and swing.[2][3]

By the age of 10 Fulton had already played her first paid musical engagement with her own jazz band at Clark Terry’s 75th birthday party. As a pre-teen, she participated in summer jazz camp programs where she met other young jazz musicians from her area and formed the Little Jazz Quintet with which she played throughout high school, appearing at regional jazz festivals in the Oklahoma area. For two years she combined school with performng weekends at Maker's Cigar Piano Bar (closed in 2013) in Oklahoma City. Upon graduating as high school valedictorian in 2003, she left for New York City to study jazz piano and performance at State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY) Music Conservatory where her most influential professor was trumpeter Jon Faddis. After graduation in 2006, Fulton moved to New York City permanently to pursue her career full-time as a jazz pianist and vocalist.[2][3] Using New York City as her home base, she also tours extensively across North America, Europe and elsewhere in the world.

Musical style and influences[edit]

Over the years, Champian Fulton has emerged as the pre-eminent female interpreter of swing and bebop jazz piano and vocals of her generation. Her unique style was noticed early in her career when a Village Voice jazz writer remarked, “Fulton's unforced sense of swing comes in just as handy on the vintage ballads, where her other assets include precise enunciation like you just don't hear any more in jazz singing…”.[1] Her modern take on bebop jazz piano and vocals was described in the Hartford Courant as, “Her piano playing is authentic, and she swings in a style that celebrates bebop modernism, reflecting her literally lifelong passion for such great modern jazz pianists as Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Erroll Garner, Sonny Clark and Hampton Hawes, among others.”[4]

Her musical heroes and influences include: Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Bud Powell, Red Garland, Erroll Garner, Count Basie, Wynton Kelly, Hampton Hawes, Sonny Clark, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, among others.[2][3][5] Her most powerful vocal influence was Dinah Washington, particularly her album “For Those in Love”, which she often played as a young girl. "Dinah was always my favorite singer since I was very young".[3] Sarah Vaughan was another of her favorite vocalists. She also greatly admired Nat King Cole, one of the first jazz artists to excel on both piano and vocals. It was Cole’s combination of both playing and singing that gave her the belief that she could do it too.[2]

Shaped by that mix of mostly swing and bebop jazz influences, Fulton has developed her own unique swinging style in the bebop tradition, always striving to channel the style of her mentors through her own signature singing and playing. As one reviewer noted, “… Champian Fulton positively thrives in the confines of the American Popular Songbook… she has a knack for personalizing lyrics that were written the better part of a century ago.”[6] Fulton has the ability to seamlessly adapt the music of mainstream traditional composers (e.g. Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter) to her own swinging vocal and piano stylings. A New York Times reviewer described her as "A charming young steward of the mainstream jazz tradition...”.[7] In an interview, jazz pianist and Sirius radio host Judy Carmichael summed up Fulton's simple approach as, "... what I like about you is; you just sit down, and play, and sing, and swing.”[8]

Fulton was named “Rising Jazz Star - Female Vocalist” in the Downbeat's Critics Poll, 2014.[9]

Artistic career[edit]

Live performances[edit]

Since arriving on the New York jazz scene, Fulton has performed in NYC venues, including: Birdland, the Garage (closed in 2015), Smalls Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel, Cleopatra's Needle, and Shanghai Jazz, New Jersey, USA. At some of those venues she has played with a number of jazz masters, including Jimmy Cobb, Frank Wess, Lou Donaldson, and Louis Hayes, among others.[10][11]

Fulton has also performed at jazz festivals and events across the U.S.A. including: Rutgers University, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz in June, Detroit Jazz Festival, Litchfield Jazz Festival, Northampton Jazz Festival, Rochester International Jazz Festival, William Paterson University, The Jazz Corner, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Chicago Humanities Festival.[10][11]

Internationally, Fulton has performed at jazz clubs, jazz festivals and other venues including: Ascona Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (Scotland),Sunset-Sunside Jazz Club (France), Bansko International Jazz Festival (Bulgaria), Gouvy Jazz & Blues Festival (Belgium), Jamboree Jazz (Spain), Tanjazz (Morocco), Hot Jazz (Israel), Cellar Jazz (Vancouver, Canada - closed in 2014), Yardbird Suite (jazz club) (Edmonton, Canada), JazzTone (Germany), Lockerbie Jazz Festival (Scotland), Islay Jazz Festival (Scotland), Ystad Jazz Festival (Sweden), and WDR Big Band - Cologne (Germany).[10][11]

In 2015 Fulton created and performed a series of special tribute shows titled “Letters to Dinah Washington”.[12] She presented that show at various venues, in both the U.S.A. and abroad, as a special tribute to her personal jazz vocalist heroine, Dinah Washington.[3]

In 2016, she played the part of a Studio Backup Singer[13] in the pilot episode of the HBO series Vinyl (TV series).

Recording history[edit]

Fulton’s debut CD titled “Champian Fulton with David Berger & the Sultans of Swing” was released in 2008. That year she also contributed vocals to the Tobias Gebb & Trio West album "An Upper West Side Story". That was followed by two more studio albums while she was still in her early twenties; “Sometimes I’m Happy” in 2010 and “The Breeze And I” in 2011. Ms. Fulton's following release, “Champian Sings and Swings” was chosen by the New York Observer as one of it's "Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2013".[14] Her follow-up 2014 release “Change Partners” was referred to by the Jazz Times reviewer as "... this tight, satisfying hour-long live session".[15] “Change Partners” was Champian’s first “live” CD; recorded live with her group over two nights at the Yardbird Suite (jazz club) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

In February 2016, as a follow-up to her 2015 “Letters to Dinah Washington” tour,[12] Fulton released her "After Dark" album which includes her hand-picked personal favorites from Ms. Washington's legendary repertoire. As it was described by one jazz reviewer, “… Champian Fulton's After Dark is a warm and beautiful homage to Dinah Washington.” [16]

Jazz education involvement[edit]

Fulton has been actively involved in Jazz education all her life. She spent her childhood learning from such masters as Clark Terry, Red Holloway, and Jon Faddis.[2] In the past decade she has shared her knowledge and experiences with students of all ages, working with such organizations as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Litchfield Jazz Camp,[17] and Rutgers University. In late 2015 Champian joined the faculty of the Jazz Arts Academy (in Association with the Count Basie Theatre Education Department)[18] to offer workshops in Jazz Vocals and Jazz Piano over the course of the summer.


“Champian Fulton with David Berger & the Sultans of Swing” (2008, Such Sweet Thunder).[19]

"An Upper West Side Story", Tobias Gebb & Trio West with Champian Fulton (2008, Yummyhouse Records).[20]

“Sometimes I’m Happy” (2010, Venus Records).

“The Breeze And I” (2011, Gut String Records).[6]

“Champian Sings & Swings” (2013, Sharp Nine Records).[21]

“Change Partners” (2014, Cellar Live).[5]

“After Dark” (2016, Gut String Records).[16]

"Speechless" (2017, Posi-Tone Records)


  1. ^ a b Francis Davis. "Rookies of the Year; Nov. 2007". Village Voice. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ken Dryden. "Champian Fulton Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Playing Dinah's Dues| Champian Fulton Profile, Jan. 2015". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  4. ^ Hartford Courant website, Oct. 2012 – “Jazz Pianist Champian Fulton Brings Positive Outlook To Japanalia” [1] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  5. ^ a b "Review by Yanow, Scott: "Change Partners: Live at the Yardbird Suite", Jazzis Magazine (May 2015).". Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  6. ^ a b "Champian Fulton: The Breeze And I| Review by D. Orthmann, Aug. 2010". Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  7. ^ NY times Website, Feb. 2013 - see Champian Fulton Quartet: [2] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  8. ^ Interview of Champian Fulton on Judy Carmichael’s “Jazz Inspired” program, SiriusXM NPR Now Channel 122, Jan., 2015 [3] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  9. ^ Downbeat Magazine 2014 - 62nd Annual Critics Poll, pg. 67 [4] Retrieved 2016-12-07
  10. ^ a b c "Previous Appearances List| by Champian Fulton - About". Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  11. ^ a b c "Past Concert Venue Posters| by Champian Fulton - Press". Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  12. ^ a b "Letters To Dinah Washington| by Champian Fulton Profile". Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  13. ^ IMDB Actress credit - Champian Fulton [5] |Retrieved=2016-12-06
  14. ^ NY Observer, Dec. 2013: No. 4 – “Champian Sings and Swings” [6] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  15. ^ Loudon, Christopher, “Review: Champian Fulton - Change Partners: Live at the Yardbird Suite”, JazzTimes (February 2015). [7] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  16. ^ a b "Review by Blanco, Edward: "Champian Fulton: After Dark", All-About-Jazz (March 2016).". Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  17. ^ Litchfield Jazz Camp, Teaching Artist – Champian Fulton [8] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  18. ^ Jazz Arts Academy [9] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  19. ^ Conrad, Thomas, “Review: Champian Fulton with David Berger & the Sultans of Swing, JazzTimes (December 2007). [10] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  20. ^ Wilkins, Woodrow, "Review: Tobias West & Trio West: An Upper West Side Story AllAboutJazz (June 2008). [11] Retrieved 2016-12-06
  21. ^ Loudon, Christopher, “Review: Champian Fulton - Champian Sings and Swings”, JazzTimes (March 2013). [12] Retrieved 2016-12-06

External links[edit]