Growing up amidst the West Texas oil fields, a young Fuller French used to see the town’s motto on car license plates, “The sky’s the limit in Midland.” And that’s how he’s approaching a remarkable music career some two-plus decades in the making with a debut five-song EP that captures a lifetime of pursuing his muse.
The piano player/writer/composer and arranger wrote some of these songs while still in his teens, recording them with a remarkable group of musicians, including Latin samba jazz pioneer Laurindo Almeida, Elton John bassist Bob Birch, sax player Don Menza (Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen) and drummer Rick Latham (B.B. King, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, Neal Schon,) with contributions from multi-Grammy-winning engineer Al Schmitt, producer Larry Goetz (Jeff Lorber, Robben Ford, The Jazz Crusaders, War) and film composer C.J. Vanston (whose film credits include Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration).
The five instrumentals that make up French’s debut EP release evoke his own influences growing up, listening to his parents record collection, including Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto’s “The Girl from Ipanema,” and bossa nova great Antonio Carlos Jobim. His mother had him take piano lessons at an early age, and French developed his style after the likes of personal favorites like Burt Bacharach and Elton John, with elements of classic pop composers like Henry Mancini, Riz Ortolani and Serge Gainsborough, along with soundtrack auteurs Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and Francis Lai. He was equally a fan of Brazilian sambas, French chansons, Hollywood film scores, Broadway musicals and even symphonic art-rock like ELO and Kansas
Three of the EP’s first tracks – “Brazilian Sunrise” (which has been available since August, 2016), “Echoes” (which came out in January) and “Waves Against the Shore” (out later this summer) – were culled from 24-track master recordings Fuller made when he first lived in Los Angeles with his family in the ‘90s. “Brazilian Sunrise,” which features a stunning acoustic guitar solo by Brazilian jazz samba legend Laurindo Almeida and a sax performance from the equally formidable Don Menza, is an homage to the Brazilian music of his youth. “Echoes,” with its sweeping Paul Buckmaster string arrangements, also pays tribute to that “Ipanema” feel, while the latest release, “Waves Against the Shore” French recalls writing while sitting at the grand piano near the breezeway of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club while still a college student.
“My songs are about the passage of time,” he says. “Looking back with gratitude on what’s come before and looking to the future with optimism. Time marches on, like waves against the shore.”
Fuller took the original demos, re-mastered and remixed them, added new overdubs, and sent them out, with record industry veteran Fred Croshal’s CEG deciding to release the tracks as an EP, with two new songs, “Cotton Candy” and “Castaway,” which French has been recording at the legendary Capitol Studios and C.J. Vanston’s L.A.-based Treehouse.
With some radio airplay on both broadcast and Internet stations, as well as exposure in retail stores, Fuller’s music would certainly sound right at home at Wave-style smooth jazz stations or SiriusXM’s Watercolors channel, but it also has surprising commerciality, harking back to the days Paul Mauriat, Ferrante & Teicher, Roger Williams and Bert Kaempfert ruled the airwaves.
“I don’t consider my music jazz, smooth jazz or new age,” insists French. “I just see it as beautiful instrumental music.”
In fact, one Internet station had his music programmed in between Mariah Carey and Adele. “And don’t think my mother wasn’t very proud to see that,” he says. “She’s been a supporter from day one.”
Claiming “better late than never,” Fuller French’s music career is suddenly a very real possibility, something he finds “completely surreal for everybody, but fun. Who knows why things happen when they do?”
A huge fan of show business lore, Fuller made his living as a buyer and seller of Hollywood memorabilia – he once owned almost the complete wardrobe from the original Planet of the Apes – and boasts the largest existing archive of Radio and TV show scripts in the world, dubbed The American Radio and Television Script Library (The ARTS Library), numbering at a massive 130,000 documents, which he keeps stored at a warehouse not far from his Fort Worth, TX, home. Among his prized possessions in a collection that ranges from The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy to The Sopranos and Breaking Bad are the original script to the Sammy Davis Jr. episode of All In The Family and many belonging to Arnold Ziffel, the pig from Green Acres.
As a teenager in Midland, Fuller French often fantasized about show business, which made him a bit of an odd man out in his hometown. With the release of his long-awaited debut EP, Fuller is living out his own Hollywood fantasy.
“That scene in 10 when Dudley Moore sits down at the piano and starts playing a Henry Mancini song,” says Fuller. “I think that really got to me.”
Now, he’s the one at the piano, ready to write and perform his music.
“I’m too old to change at this point,” says Fuller. “This is who I am. I don’t have any expectations. I just want people to hear this music. Playing again has really pulled me out of a creative rut. I just love the process. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”
That, and some beautifully crafted instrumental music that has already stood the test of time. Fuller French has finally arrived.