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Jazz legend takes time to help a friend

5:22 AM, Apr 17, 2010   |    comments
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"The last 12 years, he's been my rock and armor," said Fuller, a trombonist widely regarded as a jazz master.

Fuller is talking about Keith Oxman.

Oxman teaches music at Denver East High School. He is musician in his own right releasing several albums of his own over the years playing lead saxophone. Twelve years ago, he sent music to Fuller with hopes of making a recording with him.

"This guy's been a hero of mine since I was in junior high school," Oxman said. "I don't remember calling a girl for a date where I was more nervous than I was talking to Mr. Fuller."

Fuller says he read Oxman's material and was pleasantly surprised.

"When I looked at it, I said, 'Here we go again,'" Fuller said. "It's another John Coltrane here."

Fuller was best friends with the legendary Coltrane, playing together on major albums including the famed, "Blue Train." Fuller says Oxman's style and demeanor reminded him of Coltrane. The two started playing music together and quickly became the best of friends.

"We're the same. This is really weird, you know," Fuller said.

Their similarities can be hard to see on the surface.

Fuller grew up in a Jesuit orphanage in Detroit as one of the few blacks in his school. Fuller traveled the world for more than 50 years with some of history's biggest jazz bands.

Oxman is a white man about two decades younger than Fuller who teaches high school students for a living.

But they spoke the same language in jazz.

"It just sort of happened and it was a natural thing and we just sort of kept in touch and talked," Oxman said.

In January, Fuller lost his wife of 34 years. He was devastated and turned to Oxman for support.

"Been a solid friend, he's the first one I called the morning my wife died," Fuller said. "He's been there for me and I appreciate it."

Oxman helped lift Fuller up emotionally and helped him put together a new CD dedicated to Fuller's late wife Cathy.

Oxman is featured on the album and he helped Fuller write the dedication on the release entitled, "I Will Tell Her." It is scheduled for an official release on June 22.

"I am so proud to be on this and a part of it," Oxman said.

That is part of why Fuller is in Denver now. He is scheduled to play with Oxman at the Dazzle Jazz Club in Denver on April 16 and April 17. Fuller is also here so he could play for Oxman's students at East High School.

"Here's a guy who is the history of jazz music. He's got albums as a leader in seven different decades," Oxman said.

Fuller is a guy who is happy spending time making music with his friend, the high school teacher. He turned down an invitation to play at a music festival in Poland to come to Denver.

"This, to me, is just as much as that. And I opted to come here rather than go to Poland," Fuller said. "This to me reaches that same level."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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