Saxophonist Tia Fuller is an expressive, forward-thinking musician with a bent toward soulful, expansive jazz.
She emerged in the early 2000s leading own projects, and gained wider recognition backing singer Beyoncé on tour. Adept on both alto and soprano sax, as well as flute, Fuller has released a handful of well-received albums for Mack Avenue, including 2007's Healing Space and 2012's Angelic Warrior, which showcase her harmonically nuanced compositions and vibrant take on post-bop jazz. As a touring member of Beyoncé's all-female backing band Suga Mama, she has appeared on several of the singer's live albums, including I Am...Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas. Along with her own work, she has also contributed to albums by Sean Jones, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Dianne Reeves.
Born in 1976 in Aurora, Colorado, Fuller grew up in a musical, academically minded household the daughter of two public school teachers. Her parents also loved jazz, and Fuller credits her bassist father and singer mother with imparting her, and her sister pianist Shamie Royston's early interest in the music. She started taking classical piano lessons at age three, and by middle school was playing flute and saxophone. In 1998, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with her B.A. in Music from Spelman College in Atlanta, where she studied with saxophonist Joe Jennings. Afterward, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a Master's in Music, Jazz Pedagogy, and Performance in 2000. From there, she moved to New Jersey City, and quickly established herself as a reliable sideman, working with such well-known artists as the Ellington Big Band, T.S. Monk, Don Byron, Wycliffe Gordon, Ralph Peterson, Jon Faddis, Gerald Wilson, Don Braden, and Nancy Wilson, among others.
She also began leading her own groups, and caught the ear of singer Beyoncé, whose management hired her to accompany the superstar on several U.S. and European tours, including the I AM..Sasha Fierce Tour and Beyoncé Experience World Tour. Along the way, Fuller continued to build her own career, and in 2005 released her debut solo album, Pillar of Strength. She then signed with Mack Avenue and released her sophomore album, Healing Space. She returned in 2010 with her third solo album, Decisive Steps, which featured her sister, pianist Shamie Royston, drummer Kim Thompson, bassist Miriam Sullivan, and special guests, bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Sean Jones, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. The album landed at number 50 on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart.
Along with performing, Fuller conducts clinics and master classes, and has led sessions at the Jazz Institute of New Jersey, the Mile High Jazz Camp, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Stanford Jazz Workshop, Drexel University, Montclair State University, and New Mexico State University. Her fourth album, 2012's Angelic Warrior, once again featured her sister pianist Royston and brother-in-law bassist Rudy Royston, as well as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, and guest vocalist Dianne Reeves. It reached number 34 on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart. Her follow-up, 2018's Diamond Cut, fared even better, peaking at number 23. Joining Fuller on the album were bassist James Genus, drummer Jack DeJohnette, drummer Bill Stewart, guitarist Adam Rogers, and organist Sam Yahel. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi